Lieberman Assails Homeland Security Grant Distribution

Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., Wednesday assailed the distribution of Fiscal Year 2006 homeland security grants, arguing that first responders in Connecticut and across the nation should get more, not less, money and that Connecticut suffers because the Department’s assessment of risk remains unclear and unfair.

The Department Wednesday announced the recipients of $1.7 billion in grants from five programs. Connecticut will receive $13.5 million from four of those programs, a 37 percent reduction from the $21.5 million it received from these programs last year. Nationwide, funding for these programs was reduced by 36 percent. Funding for all states except two – Florida and Nebraska – was reduced. New York’s funding was decreased 37 percent and Washington, D.C’s went down approximately 43 percent.

“The Bush Administration and this Congress continue to under fund one of the most crucial needs of this nation,” Lieberman said. “I will continue to argue for more, not less, funding for those brave men and women who are first at the scene to help in the event of a terrorist attack or natural disaster, and I will advocate especially on behalf of Connecticut’s security.”

Connecticut’s critical military, energy, chemical, education and other infrastructure create significant vulnerabilities and risks. Connecticut is also strategically located in one of the nation’s most important travel corridors; the state’s densely populated urban and suburban communities are directly affected, and its emergency management resources must respond, whenever there are terrorist attacks or natural disasters in New York, Massachusetts, and other New England communities.”

The announced funding will come from DHS’s major grant programs, the State Homeland Security Grant Program (SHSGP), the Urban Area Security Grants (UASI), the Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program (LETPP), as well as the Metropolitan Medical Response System (MMRS) and Citizens Corps Program (CCP).

The Department based its distribution of the grant money on a complex combination of factors that the Department uses to estimate both risk and effectiveness. States and cities are judged by whether they are considered at risk for terrorist attacks and on the effectiveness of their plans to spend the money.

Since the Department of Homeland Security was established in 2003, Lieberman has worked assiduously to increase funding for a variety of homeland security needs, particularly the training and equipping of first responders. In March, he offered an amendment to the FY 2007 Budget Resolution that would have restored $1.6 billion in proposed Administration cuts to first responder programs and added another $1.2 billion to improve state and local capabilities to deal with mass casualties and achieve communications interoperability.

In addition, Lieberman proposed distinct grant security programs for ports ($400 million), rails ($500 million), transit ($500 million), buses ($10 million), and the trucking industry ($5 million). The amendment failed.

Lieberman also offered an amendment with HSGAC Chairman Susan Collins, R-Me., for $986 million which the Senate accepted but the House has not.

Lieberman and Collins also tried to increase grant funding while reforming the distribution formula. Last year, the Senate approved S. 21, the Homeland Security Grant Enhancement Act of 2005, which would have authorized $2.925 billion for the three core first responder grant programs, 70 percent more than the total approved for FY 2005. Connecticut would have been guaranteed a minimum of $21 million. This measure passed the Senate but did not survive conference with the House.