Administration Shortchanges First Responders For Second Year In a Row

WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., Monday issued the following statement on the President’s homeland security budget proposals:

“The President’s homeland security budget tells me that the Administration has not yet committed to fully funding the war on terror at home. “I am shocked and troubled that, once again, the Administration is seeking to slash vital funds to equip and empower our nation’s first responders, reducing them to second rate status. “In particular, the key state homeland security grant programs would be cut by $480 million, or more than 30 percent. This is the second straight year the administration has sought large cuts in this assistance, which forms the backbone of most states’ homeland security effort. Worse, this cut comes on top of proposed cuts in other vital programs for first responders, such as the Community Oriented Policing program and the FIRE Act grants. “Although I am pleased to see some promising initiatives and targeted increases elsewhere in the budget, they come at a cost. “For instance, the budget includes some proposed new spending to develop countermeasures for bioterrorism. But dissemination of the countermeasures will be hampered by cuts in key preparedness programs for hospitals and public health workers. Cutting support to medical first responders largely defeats the research and development efforts we now have underway; both pieces are vital to build up our defenses to bioterror. “The Coast Guard is being stretched to do ever more for our homeland defense at a time when its fleet is virtually crumbling into the ocean. Yet the Administration proposes only an incremental increase in the urgently needed Deepwater program, which at current levels will not deliver a new fleet for more than 20 years. That is time we do not have and this program needs to be dramatically accelerated. According to the Rand Corp., doubling the pace of the project would save the government $4 billion. “We know we must do more to shore up security along our borders, and the recently passed intelligence reform legislation authorized 2,000 new Border Patrol agents for Fiscal Year 06. The President’s budget does not even attempt to meet this challenge, funding at most only 200 new agents next year. “I regret the Administration has not funded critical homeland security programs to the degree that is needed, especially at a time when the threat of a terrorist attack is real and ongoing. “We should be beefing up our support for all of our partners in the war on terror rather than leaving them in a position of having to do more with less.”