WASHINGTON, DC– Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Susan Collins has released the following reaction to President Bush’s 2007 Budget request for the Department of Homeland Security:
“I am pleased that the President has made homeland security funding a priority. The President’s budget includes a number of funding increases that will help the Department of Homeland Security make our nation stronger.
“It provides increases for Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to better protect our borders and to help bring an end to the “catch and release” practice of not detaining illegal aliens caught by law enforcement officers. It also prioritizes intelligence gathering and analysis at the Department.
“In addition, the budget would create an office within the Department to strengthen the security of chemical facilities nationwide. This is of particular interest to me, as I have held four hearings on chemical security and recently introduced bipartisan legislation, with Senator Lieberman and others, to authorize the Department to establish performance-based standards to enhance the security of our chemical plants that pose the greatest risk.
“But the President’s homeland security budget is not all good news. It cuts grants to states and local governments, to police, firefighters, and other first responders. These grants help train and equip our first responders, including providing them with interoperable telecommunications equipment, which we have seen time and again—including in our Hurricane Katrina investigation– is essential to respond effectively to catastrophes.
“It also fails to adequately fund the Deepwater program, which is needed to provide the Coast Guard with the modern assets it requires to carry out its many critical missions. A similar problem is the reduced funding for the Air and Marine programs within Customs and Border Protection.
“I plan to work with the Department of Homeland Security, my House counterparts, and the Appropriations Committee to address these issues through the budget and appropriations process that will unfold in the coming months. As a first step, I look forward to Secretary Chertoff testifying before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on the fiscal year 2007 budget on March 1, 2006.”