How much money did Customs and Border Protection need to avoid furloughs?

(Updated June 21, 2013 at 12:15 p.m.)

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told Customs and Border Protection employees on Wednesday that they would not be furloughed this year, despite the agency’s initial estimate that its employees would have to take 14 days off because of the sequester.

Napolitano informed CBP employees that Congress approved a plan to mitigate the impact of the automatic spending cuts. “Today, I am pleased to say that Congress has approved that plan, and we have eliminated the need to furlough CBP personnel for the remainder of the fiscal year,” she said.

We wanted to see the reprogramming plan to understand how much money DHS shifted between accounts to help avoid sequester furloughs. Neither CBP nor Homeland Security provided that information when asked for it on Wednesday.

Congressional staff from the House Appropriations Committee eventually sent the following Homeland Security document in response to the same query:

DHS reprogramming request

The document is a letter in which Homeland Security asks permission to transfer about $11 million to CBP’s account for salaries and expenses, using money from other spending categories such as the Office of Intelligence and Analysis and the agency’s border-security fencing appropriations.

The $11 million figure appears in a Washington Post article that went online Wednesday night. Homeland Security spokeswoman Marsha Catron later questioned the number, saying the department actually reprogrammed more than $100 million to avoid sequester-related furloughs.

In order to reach Catron’s figure, the agency would need to shift another $89 million on top of the $11 million that Congress just approved for reprogramming.

Since June 19, the Federal Eye has repeatedly asked Homeland Security for evidence to support Catron’s claim that the department reprogrammed $100 million to avoid furloughs — including the $89 million the department would have shifted without congressional approval. The agency has not responded, meaning the $100 million figure remains unfounded.

For more federal news, visit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics. To connect with Josh Hicks, follow his Twitter feed, friend his Facebook page or e-mail josh.hicks@washpost.comE-mail federalworker@washpost.com with news tips and other suggestions.

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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Josh Hicks · June 19, 2013