Lieberman Seeks To Help Close Homeland Security Gaps

WASHINGTON – Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., plans to introduce an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2005 budget resolution to increase homeland security funding by $6.8 billion, above President Bush’s request, in an effort to narrow the nation’s multiple vulnerabilities to terrorist attacks. The amendment would provide an additional $4.4 billion for first responders who were dealt a stunning blow by the Administration’s proposal, which cuts their funding by 30 percent.

“Two and a half years since September 11, 2001, and one year after creation of the Department of Homeland Security, it is evident that the federal government has not fulfilled its promise to the American people to do all it can to protect them from the threats posed by terrorism,” Lieberman said. “Unfortunately, the president’s budget does not boldly acknowledge and address the many threats that we face, and it leaves state and local governments bearing too much of the burden of securing our homeland.” The spending, along with an equivalent amount in deficit reduction, would be offset by a reduction in tax cuts for those earning more than $1 million a year. In addition to the $4.4 billion for first responders, Lieberman proposes an additional: · $900 million for port security · $500 million for bio-terror preparedness · $500 million for border security · $500 million to secure air cargo, as well as trains and mass transit systems. · “Some will say we cannot afford these investments,” Lieberman said. “I strongly disagree. We could pay much more by not making these investments. The Administration’s national security officials attest to the ongoing and very real threat of terrorism, yet its budget reflects more of a business-as-usual approach.” Some $2.5 billion of Lieberman’s proposal would be used simply to restore cuts the president made to homeland security programs, including port security, bio-terror preparedness, and first responders. For example, Lieberman would restore a $1 billion cut to the program that provides primary assistance to state and local governments and first responders for emergency planning, equipment, training, and other preparedness activities. He also restores more than $1 billion in cuts to proven law enforcement assistance programs – the Local Law Enforcement Block Grant, the Byrne program, and the COPS program – which together have declined more than $1.8 billion since FY 2002. Another $1 billion is set aside to help first responders obtain interoperable communications equipment. “We have a long way to go before the federal government fulfills the promise made to the American people following the September 11th attacks, to adequately secure our homeland,” Lieberman said. “We should approach this task with the same unity, resolve and resources that we have brought to the war on terror overseas.” Lieberman was spurred to introduce this amendment by a report last year from a Council on Foreign Relations task force that called the nation “still unprepared” and our first responders “drastically underfunded.” Co-sponsors of the amendment include Senators Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., Frank Lautenburg, D-N.J, Joe Biden, D-Del., Patty Murray, D-Wash., Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., Jon Corzine, D-N.J., Carl Levin, D-Mich., Herb Kohl, D-Wisc., Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., ChrisDodd, D-Conn., Tim Johnson, D-S.D., Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii., and Richard Durbin, D-Ill.