WASHINGTON – Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., Friday called on the House of Representatives to approve swiftly the conference report on the 9/11 Commission recommendations bill so that Congress can send it to the President for signing, and new security measures can be put into place.
The Senate late Thursday approved by a vote of 85-8 the report on the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, a bill that will strengthen the nation’s security against terrorism by requiring screening of cargo placed on passenger aircraft; securing mass transit, rail and buses; improving the security of maritime cargo; providing first responders with the resources they need to protect their communities from disaster; distributing homeland security grants based on risk; creating a dedicated grant program to improve interoperable radio communications; and protecting, from lawsuits, those who report suspicious activities in good faith.
“This comprehensive, bipartisan legislation will do many things to make our nation stronger, our cities and towns more secure and our families safer,” Lieberman said. “Senate passage of the conference report marks another stride forward in the ongoing process of making every American safer from terrorist attacks as well as natural disasters. My thanks to the families of those who died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks for their determination and courage in helping Congress over the past three years to implement the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations.”
Senator Collins noted: “I am pleased that the Senate has passed this conference report which contains important provisions to enhance our nation’s security. Among other things, it will provide a stable, balanced formula for state homeland security grants, strengthen important interoperable communications, and protect concerned citizens from civil liability when they report suspicious activity that could threaten our transportation system. In the face of a persistent and evolving threat from terrorists, we must continue to take steps to better protect our country from those who are intent on doing us harm.”
Among major provisions of the bill are:
• Screening of all cargo carried on passenger airplanes within three years.
• Protection from lawsuits for people who in good faith report what they believe is terrorist activity in and around airplanes, trains, and buses.
• A dedicated interoperability grant program to improve interoperability at local, state, and federal levels.
• Stronger security measures for the Visa Waiver Program, which allows travelers from select countries to visit the U.S. without a visa, through creation of a new Electronic Travel Authorization system and improved reporting of lost and stolen passports.
• More than $4 billion over four years for rail, transit, and bus security grants.
• $250 million annually for airport checkpoint screening, $450 million annually for baggage screening, and $50 million annually for the next four years for aviation security R&D.
• Greater distribution of homeland security grants for states and high-risk urban areas based on risk of terrorism, while still ensuring that all states have funds available for basic preparedness. Each state is guaranteed a minimum of .375 percent of funds in FY 2008 to prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from terrorist attacks, scaling down to a minimum of 0.35 percent in 2012.
• $1.8 billion authorization for FY 2008 to assist states and high-risk urban areas in preparing for terrorist threats; $400 million authorization for Emergency Management Performance Grants to assist states in preparing for all-hazards, and $400 million annually beginning in FY09 for interoperable emergency communications – all as part of an overall effort to ensure that all states have basic capabilities to prepare for and respond to both man-made and natural disasters.
• President to publicly disclose the total amount appropriated for the intelligence community. After the next two fiscal years the President may waive the disclosure requirement only if it would harm national security.
• 100 percent screening within five years of maritime cargo before it’s loaded on ships in foreign ports bound for the U.S. Secretary of Department of Homeland Security may extend deadline by two-year increments.
Please follow this link for a summary of the report: http://hsgac.senate.gov/_files/911BillSummary.pdf