Lieberman Backs Hike In Homeland Security Spending

WASHINGTON – Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., a leading advocate for a more muscular domestic defense, endorsed an amendment to the budget resolution Thursday that would increase homeland security spending by $88 billion over 11 years, including $5 billion in an emergency supplemental bill for this year. Although Lieberman believes an even greater investment must be made in homeland security, especially for first responders, he called the amendment by Senator Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., “significant progress in the right direction.”

“When it comes to our overseas battles, the Administration appreciates that new challenges will require new resources,” Lieberman said. “Unfortunately, the Administration’s budget does not provide adequate funding to fight the war against terrorism at home. If we want the best domestic defenses, we’ll have to pay for them. This amendment would begin to correct the short-sighted shortfall in the Administration’s budget.”

The amendment would provide $5 billion above current spending for Fiscal Year 2003, mostly for first responders. For FY 2004, the amendment would add $6.5 billion to the President’s $41.3 billion proposal for first responders, port security, bioterrorism preparedness, border security and more. In total, the amendment would invest close to $90 billion in the urgent domestic defense improvements the nation needs to make through 2013.

Noting the Administration’s desire to spend $102 billion on unaffordable tax cuts for those who need them least, Lieberman said the Administration’s economic policy was “irresponsible” and “downright unfair to those who are working day and night to protect us, and who desperately need new resources to do their job well.” Last month, Lieberman called for an increased homeland security investment of $16 billion beyond the President’s proposal for 2004. Included in Lieberman’s plan is an additional $7.5 billion for first responders. The Administration’s proposed spending for first responders in FY 2004 remains flat at its FY 2003 level of $3.5 billion.

“Even that is deceptive,” Lieberman said, “because at the same time the budget would slash other funding for local law enforcement and emergency preparedness.”

The Schumer amendment would restore FY 2004 funding for the Community Oriented Policing (COPS) grant program and other local law enforcement programs. It would also provide money for training, equipment, and qualified personnel. Lieberman also supports passage of the SAFER Act, which would add 10,000 new firefighters a year for seven years to firehouses around the country.

“Remember, we are at war against terrorism and there are many gaps in our domestic defenses that we must close in order to protect the American people,” Lieberman said. “Let’s not frustrate and condemn to failure those whose job it is to protect us-many of whom risk their lives-by failing to provide them the resources they need to meet and beat the threats.

“We depend on them for our safety. Surely they should be able to depend upon us for support.”