Washington, DC – Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) have offered an amendment to the congressional budget resolution to restore $855 million in proposed budget cuts to vital first responder programs in the Department of Homeland Security, and for port security grant dollars, and border security. The Collins-Lieberman amendment would provide an additional $565 million for state homeland security programs that support our first responders, $150 million for port security grants, and $140 million to allow for the hiring of 1,000 additional border patrol agents. The funding would be fully offset so it will not increase the deficit.

The Collins-Lieberman homeland security amendment restores funding to last year’s levels for homeland security grant programs, such as the State Homeland Security Program, Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program, Urban Area Security Initiative, Metropolitan Medical Response System, Emergency Management Performance Grants, and the FIRE Act and SAFER programs.

The amendment will ensure at least the same amount of funding for the nation’s ports as last year. It also increases the number of border patrol agents, beyond what is provided for in the current budget proposal, and closer to what is authorized in the Collins-Lieberman Intelligence Reform Act.

“As we set priorities through this budget resolution, we are faced with many worthy and competing needs. But surely along with national defense, improving the security of our homeland must be a priority. And that means providing adequate assistance to those on the
front lines – our firefighters, law enforcement officers, emergency medical personnel, and emergency managers,” said Senator Collins. “Secretary Ridge put it well when he said that ‘homeland security starts with hometown security.’ Improving our preparedness is an
investment that we must make to strengthen our ability to prevent, detect, and respond if required to terrorist attacks.”

“We have the best military in the world, in the history of the world, as we have seen in Afghanistan and Iraq in recent years. One of the reasons we do, in addition to the extraordinary commitment, skill, and bravery of our personnel, is we have been willing to invest money to provide that first-rate defense. The same is true here at home. We will not become secure on the cheap,” said Senator Lieberman. “The bottom line is that this is a modest proposal, and in large part, it is a status quo proposal, keeping us at least where we have been and not moving backward. The experts have told us that we need to invest billions more than we are. We are still learning of new vulnerabilities all the time. We cannot afford to retreat in our efforts, when we know there is still a great distance to go before our first responders are well prepared and other gaps at our borders and ports are closed.”

Senators Collins and Lieberman have also introduced legislation that would redefine the federal homeland security funding formula to target billions of dollars toward high risk states and cities while ensuring that all states receive the resources needed to prevent and be prepared for potential terrorist acts.