President Biden speaks at DHS's 20th Anniversary Ceremony on Wednesday.

President Biden speaks at DHS's 20th Anniversary Ceremony on Wednesday. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

Biden Promises the 'Heroes' at the Homeland Security Dept. More Resources in the Upcoming Budget

The president addressed the department's workforce on its 20th anniversary.

President Biden on Wednesday marked the 20th anniversary of the formation of the Homeland Security Department by telling employees at its Washington headquarters he would grow their ranks and add to their funding. 

DHS held a ceremony to commemorate its birthday, which Biden said he attended in order to thank the department’s workforce for making the country safer. The president called the employees “heroes,” adding they represented the best of the nation in their “duty, devotion, courage, honor [and] service.”

“You possess rare commitment,” Biden said. “Rare commitment to your fellow Americans, showing the American people how their government works for them.” 

Biden is set to release his fiscal 2024 budget next week and promised to fight for more staffing and funding in the upcoming appropriations process with Congress. 

“I’m going to keep making sure you have the resources you need to do the job, because your job is so expansive across the board,” Biden said. “I was able to secure record funding for DHS and I’m asking Congress to do more.” 

DHS saw its funding increase by $3.2 billion in the fiscal 2023 omnibus appropriations bill, which included a 12% bump for Customs and Border Protection and a hiring surge for 300 new Border Patrol agents. Mayorkas suggested to reporters after the event that Biden’s forthcoming budget would ask for more personnel throughout DHS, saying the increasing number of threats the country faces justifies that request. The administration is also continuing to confront unusually high numbers of migrants seeking to cross the southwest border, though it is in part relying on efforts to restrict asylum and other policy reforms to address that challenge. 

“We are requesting growth,” Mayorkas said. “We want to be resourced to fulfill the highest aspirations for each aspect of the diverse and expansive mission.”

He added there are a number of dangers that Congress and leaders who stood up DHS could not have envisioned 20 years ago, such as cyber criminals and insider threats. Since that time, the department’s workforce has grown by 44% to 260,000 employees. More than 10% of them, or about 32,000 workers, are “plank holders” who have been with the department since its creation. 

“Our department will continue to evolve and meet the challenges not only today but those of tomorrow,” Mayorkas told employees during his speech. “I express confidence in the security of our future because of all of you.” 

Speakers throughout the ceremony noted the impact of 9/11 on the call to service and the foundation of the department. Mayorkas said afterward that when DHS was first stood up, there were questions about "whether we were thrown together and whether it made any sense." While he said he is open to reforms that are frequently tossed around in Congress, the department is "more fit for purpose" than ever and the setup makes "such tremendous sense given the diversity and evolution of the threats." 

The secretary called it “the honor of my life” to support the DHS workforce.

“Not everybody has the privilege of being fulfilled by the work they do every day or having such pride in it,” Mayorkas said. “And we have that privilege.”

Biden said he attended the ceremony on Wednesday to deliver a message on behalf of the American people. 

“I came for a simple reason,” Biden said, “to say thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”