Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff today testified before the Senate Homeland Security Committee to discuss the Department’s fiscal year 2009 budget priorities. When the President’s budget was released, Committee Ranking Member Senator Susan Collins was critical of the drastic cuts to homeland security grant funding. Today, Senator Collins reiterated her concern about the Administration’s proposal to slash the Department’s grant programs for state and local governments and other homeland security programs and pledged to seek additional funding for these vital programs through the appropriations process.
Senator Collins said, “States rely heavily on State Homeland Security Grants for emergency planning, risk assessments, mutual-aid agreements, equipment, training, and exercises for first responders. That is why I am very concerned about the nearly $700 million gap between this year’s budget for the State Homeland Security Grant Program and what Congress enacted last year.”
Senator Collins also questioned the administration’s rationale of providing only $210 million for the port security grants, rather than the $400 million that Congress authorized under Senator Collins’s port security legislation that is now law. “This landmark legislation is already making a difference in the security of our nation’s ports. So we must fully fund these grant programs,” Senator Collins said.
“The lack of funding for the port security grant program and for other important grant programs like the FIRE Act and SAFER Act grants for firefighters, interoperable communications grants, and direct assistance to purchase commercial equipment for emergency response providers could have disastrous consequences for emergency preparedness, prevention, and deterrence,“ Senator Collins added.
Senator Collins questioned the Administration’s justification for cuts to the grant programs, calling its reasoning flawed and misleading. She explained that future needs for these funds will remain until we have effectively established a baseline for prevention and response programs of State and local governments.