Lieberman Assails Further Slashes to First Responder Support

WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., issued the following statement today on the Presidents FY 2008 Budget Request for homeland security programs.

“The President’s FY 2008 budget request for the Department of Homeland Security represents a serious disconnect between his rhetoric and the reality of protecting Americans from terrorist threats and natural disasters. For the fourth year in a row, his proposals will undercut crucial support for the men and women on the frontlines of the domestic war on terrorism and endanger the ability of first responders to prepare themselves adequately for predictable disasters. “There has been no evidence to the contrary and plenty of evidence to support the fact that our first responders and preventers need better training, equipment, and planning resources. Instead of responding to that need, this budget cuts the primary source of funds for first responder training and equipment, the State Homeland Security Grant program, by 52 percent over last year’s levels and by 85 percent from the FY 2004 level. What was once a major source of support for state and local preparedness would become a shell of its former self. “Overall first responder funding is down by 40 percent from last year and off by 60 percent from its high point in FY 2004. Particularly outrageous, grants for fire fighters are dramatically reduced: Fire Act grants are cut by 55 percent from FY 2007 and include a total elimination of the SAFER grant funding. And the Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention grants – which provide money to states and local law enforcement organizations to assist in the prevention of terrorist attacks – are cut by 30 percent. “The President is further proposing elimination of funding for the Metropolitan Medical Response System, which ensures state medical systems are prepared to handle a significant disaster, including an act of bioterror. “Again, contrary to all available evidence that we need more not less money to secure our transportation sector, the Administration is proposing no new funds for transit and port security grants. The proposed budget also shortchanges the Transportation Security Administration’s surface transportation security programs, reflecting a continued lack of leadership in this area. Additionally, despite well-known and longstanding gaps in our ability to screen cargo coming into the United States, the president proposes no new funding for x-ray imaging systems at ports or for air cargo security in general. “Once again, I am distressed that the budget fails to recognize the importance of greatly strengthening our efforts to secure the nation’s critical infrastructure. Even in the area of chemical security where the Administration proposes an increase, the budget request is insufficient to implement the newly authorized chemical security program effectively and to continue with ongoing work. “This President’s budget proposal endangers a number of federal programs that states rely on to keep their communities and citizens safe from disaster or terrorist attack. We are not retreating from the war on terror abroad. Nor should we be retreating from the war on terror at home.”