WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., Tuesday appealed for more funding for homeland defense as the Senate debated the Fiscal Year 2006 spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security. At a press conference attended by several Democratic Senators who will seek to increase funding for first responders, transit security, port security and other homeland security needs, Lieberman delivered the following statement:

“On September 11, 2001, I was privileged to be serving as Chairman of what was then known as the Governmental Affairs Committee and we immediately began a series of hearings to determine our security vulnerabilities and what could be done about them. On December 13, 2001, we held a hearing on the security of our rail and transit systems. Witnesses testified about the reality of the threat and about promising new security technologies such as facial recognition and chemical sensors. I remember saying at the time that transit security should not be side-tracked while other homeland defense needs claimed all our time and resources. “Today, three and a half years later, the sad fact is the train has still not left the station when it comes to genuine rail and transit security. And the reason is that this Congress and this Administration have devoted neither the resources nor the time necessary to protect the 14 million people who ride subways, buses, light rails, commuter trains, and ferries each day throughout our country. “This is not just about last week’s tragic attacks on London. I agree with Secretary Chertoff when he says we can’t base our national homeland defense policies on a single attack somewhere else. We don’t have to do that. We’ve been attacked here. We know the reality of the threat and we know the reality of our vulnerabilities. “But experts in and out of government have told us in no uncertain terms that we are still vulnerable – and will remain vulnerable – to terrorist attack unless we begin to invest – seriously and strategically – in our own security. “Experts have identified billions of dollars in urgent security needs, ranging from rail, transit, and port security, to communications equipment for first responders, to modernizing the Coast Guard fleet, to fixing our porous borders. “We have the best military in the world because we’ve invested in it. If we want to have the best homeland security, we will have to invest in it. “This year, the President proposed only modest increases for the Department’s many important programs. And even those proposed increases were illusory, as they were based on a controversial airline ticket fee that congressional leaders have rejected. The House and the Senate Appropriations Committee have approved bills that provide even less for DHS than President Bush proposed. “Yes, we have we increased spending on homeland security since 9/11, but we have not increased it anywhere near enough to meet the threat of terrorism that we face. The budget to fight terrorism at home is still just a small fraction of the budget to fight terrorism abroad. “Last year, for example, Congress provided $150 million specifically for rail and transit grants. This year, the President proposed no dedicated funding at all for rail and transit, and the Senate Appropriations bill proposes only $100 million – a $50 million cut from last year. “Funding for first responders is decreasing for the second year in a row. Even taking into account proposed increases in two grant programs, the Administration=s FY 2006 budget would cut overall DHS first responder program by $565 million. That’s simply not acceptable. . “None of these proposed cuts make sense given the pressing need and the Senate’s 63-37 bipartisan vote on the Budget Resolution to restore the Administration=s proposed cuts to DHS first responder grants. “Homeland Security expert Steve Flynn describes our predicament in his recent book, America the Vulnerable. He writes: AHomeland security has entered our post-9/11 lexicon, but homeland insecurity remains the abiding reality.” “My colleagues and I will be introducing and supporting amendments to address some of these shortfalls and, hopefully, to diminish the terrorist threat. “We urge this Congress and this Administration to recall how we felt on September 11, 2001, and listen to the security experts who tell us we must live with B and prepare for B the terrorist threat for the indefinite future. Together, we can meet and defeat the terrorist threat.”