Lieberman Says Homeland Security Will be Forced to Skimp

WASHINGTON – Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., upon completion of the Homeland Security Appropriations Conference Report, said Wednesday that the Bush Administration continues to deny the Department of Homeland Security the funding necessary for it to carry out its responsibilities to protect the American public from future terrorist attack.

“The Department of Homeland Security, and its state and local partners, cannot win the war on terrorism with the fiscal hand they are being dealt,” Lieberman said. “This package falls far short because the Administration is unwilling to seek and fight for the real resources it will take to secure our homeland. Instead of giving DHS the tools and materials to build a robust new department, I fear DHS is being stretched too thin and will be forced to skimp in its efforts.” Lieberman identified several key shortfalls: First responders: The conference report provides $4 billion to help first responders. While this is more than the Administration’s request, it falls far short of what is needed to help these critical partners in the war on terrorism. An Independent Task Force of the Council on Foreign Relations, led by former Sen. Warren Rudman and former White House terrorism advisor Richard Clarke, concluded that first responders need an additional $98.4 billion over five years to gain the necessary equipment and training for terrorism. Port security: Expert upon expert has identified the nation’s ports as a dangerously weak link in the nation’s security. Closing the gap is a critical, and expensive, task. The Administration’s own Coast Guard estimated it will cost $4.4 billion just to upgrade the physical security of the ports. Yet, the Administration requested no money for port security grants, and this conference report provides only $125 million for these grants. Other aspects of port security are also dangerously under funded, including efforts to inspect or otherwise secure the contents of containers entering the country and the Deepwater Initiative to modernize the Coast Guard fleet. Transportation Security: Although the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is falling short in its mission to secure all modes of transportation, it will receive $4.6 billion – significantly less than in the current fiscal year. This despite the fact that TSA is struggling to keep up with its efforts to secure passenger aviation, and has not yet begun to make serious inroads on other modes of transportation such as rail, mass transit, and maritime. On mass transit, for instance, the U.S. Conference of Mayors reports that many of the cities served by the “highest risk” transit systems are not receiving federal aid to help secure these systems. Border Security: This package will not provide sufficient funding for border inspectors and related facilities needed to adequately screen the people and good entering our country.