The funding provides for 500 new employees in fiscal 2006, including criminal investigators and immigration enforcement agents. ICE also will be able to reinstitute performance bonuses it had suspended to cut costs, start a new management training program, and free up investigators now assigned to detention and removal of illegal aliens so they can track down criminals.
Although the budget shortfall — which was as much as $350 million in December 2004 — stretched ICE to its limits and hurt morale, Clark said the agency performed admirably.
Budget shortfalls of that size can sink fledgling agencies, Clark said, and even established agencies usually see productivity plummet.
Not only did ICE survive, Clark said, it made significant accomplishments — including new initiatives that netted thousands of suspected criminals.
“We scrapped and scraped and did whatever we could,” Clark said in a Nov. 8 interview in his Washington office. “To find out, when the budgets [of the former Immigration and Naturalization Service and Customs Service, the agencies that made up ICE] merged in October 2003, that we were short quite a bit, it made things all that much more difficult for us.”
Clark objected to former Homeland Security Inspector General Clark Kent Ervin’s comments in the Oct. 31 Federal Times that ICE was the most dysfunctional agency in the department. Clark said ICE improved its performance while facing tremendous challenges that were not of its own making.
ICE got “the short end of the stick,” in terms of funding and resources when it was created, Clark said. And a lengthy dispute between ICE and five other Homeland Security bureaus over payments to ICE for accounting and other services did not help. ICE and the other bureaus did not reach a payment agreement until late in fiscal 2004, which left the agency short hundreds of millions of dollars