Lieberman Hails Independent Report on Homeland Security Funding for Confirming Bush Administration’s Inadequate Commitment

WASHINGTON – Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., Sunday issued the following statement regarding the Council on Foreign Relations report on first responders entitled “Drastically Underfunded, Dangerously Unprepared”:

“For months, I have called for an immediate increase in funding of $16 billion above the Bush Administration’s budget to strengthen our first responders, port security, bioterrorism preparedness, and other pressing needs. At every turn, the Administration and most of our Republican colleagues have refused to budge, insisting that the job of protecting the country could be done on the cheap. They talked tough but turned their backs on our domestic defenders and preventers. “Most recently, on June 17, the Governmental Affairs Committee considered legislation to authorize homeland security funding programs. Republicans voted down the line against an amendment that I offered to authorize $10 billion for first responders for Fiscal Year 2004 — $6.5 billion more than the President has proposed. One rationale given for voting against my amendment was that we should wait for the results of assessments, such as the one issued today by Council on Foreign Relations. “We now have that assessment, and its findings are shocking. On average, fire departments across the country have only enough radios to equip half of a shift–and only enough breathing apparatus for a third; police departments lack protective gear to secure sites after an attack with weapons of mass destruction; and public health labs in most states still lack basic equipment and expertise to respond to a chemical or biological attack. “This report is not a partisan political attack. It comes from an independent group of experts, led by a former Republican Senator and a former Bush Administration official. “The Administration must stop pretending that we can wish this problem away, and act now to get first responders the funding they need to protect us. Otherwise, as this report tells us, we will fall short by a staggering $100 billion over the next five years when it comes to meeting first responders’ needs.” “The choice is simple and stark: sufficient funding for first responders or huge and irresponsible tax cuts that won’t produce jobs or get our economy moving. President Bush must explain to the American people why he insists on baking bread for the few who need the least while those first and last at the scene of a crisis have to settle for crumbs. We are at war against terrorism. It’s long past time we started acting like it.” “I thank Senator Rudman, Senior Advisor Dick Clarke and the Council on Foreign Relations for this very timely and necessary report. The nation is indebted to them.”