Collins, Lieberman Succeed in Bolstering Homeland Security Budget

Chairman Susan Collins (R-ME) and Ranking Member Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) today convinced the Senate to boost the Fiscal Year 2007 homeland security budget by $986 million, primarily to strengthen first responder programs, port security, and rail and transit security. Their amendment to the FY2007 Senate Budget Resolution was approved by unanimous consent.

The measure provides $860 million to restore to FY2006 levels and expand funding for key homeland security grant programs that assist state and local governments and first responders protect our homeland against terrorist attacks and catastrophic natural disasters. Among these programs are the State Homeland Security Grant Program, Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program, the FIRE Act and SAFER programs, the Metropolitan Medical Response System, and the Emergency Management Performance Grants. Communities use these grants for training, equipping, and hiring police officers and firefighters, for preparing public health officials to deal with mass casualties, and for emergency planning and risk assessment . Some grants are also used to help localities acquire and improve interoperable communications equipment to ensure effective coordination of response in a crisis.

The amendment also provides $ 500 million for grant programs specifically dedicated to port, rail and transit security. Absent the Collins-Lieberman amendment, the Senate budget would have no dedicated funding for those major homeland security gaps. The amendment also provides $105 million for imaging inspection equipment to improve cargo security and $20 million to increase staff for C-TPAT, a program that expedites trade for known companies that improve the security of their own operations.

“The amendment sends a message to our first responders that they are a top priority. We must continue to invest in our homeland security structure if we are to strengthen our ability to prevent, detect, and respond to attacks on our homeland. This is not the time to reduce the federal government’s commitment to better national preparedness,” said Senator Collins. “I have long acknowledged the vulnerability of our ports – both as a potential target and as a conduit through which terrorists, their weapons or other contraband may enter the United States. Coming from a state with three international cargo ports, I am keenly aware of the importance of our seaports to our national economy and to the communities in which they are located. In addition to our ports’ economic significance, the link between maritime security and our national security is evident.”

“We know our first responders don’t have the training, equipment, and frequently the manpower they need to prevent and respond to terrorist attacks and major natural disasters” said Lieberman. “Many don’t even have the basic capability to communicate with one another across jurisdiction and service lines, and the response to Hurricane Katrina demonstrated, sometimes during a major catastrophe, they can’t communicate at all. Our amendment is a small step toward helping first responders improve their capabilities in those areas and better protect our citizens.”

Senators Collins and Lieberman have consistently fought to ensure adequate funding to prevent, prepare for, and if necessary respond in the event of a natural disaster or terrorist attack