Washington, DC – Senator Susan Collins today chaired a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to examine the Department of Homeland Security’s budget submission for Fiscal Year 2006. Secretary Michael Chertoff, of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), testified. This was Secretary Chertoff’s first time testifying before the Senate since being confirmed as DHS Secretary.

Senator Collins expressed concern that the DHS budget proposal would cut and reshape the basic grant programs for states, in a way that would result in smaller states seeing as much as an 80-percent decrease in baseline funding for state and local homeland security efforts, particularly for first responders.

“Former Secretary Ridge often, correctly, said that homeland security begins with hometown security. When disaster strikes, our citizens do not call the Washington, D.C., area code, they dial 911. And it is our police officers, our firefighters and our emergency medical personnel who are always first on the scene. They truly are the front lines in the war against terrorism,” said Senator Collins. “My question is: how can you expect states and localities to meet new preparedness standards, to solve problems with the interoperability of communications equipment, and to continue their progress in improving their preparedness, with a budget that proposes to drastically slash the baseline funding that states and communities can count on?”

Secretary Chertoff stated that homeland security funding for states should be awarded based on risk, threats, consequences, and vulnerabilities. “Those characteristics do not necessarily arise in large or small states,” he said. “They depend on a whole host of characteristics – the nature of the infrastructure, the proximity to borders, historical information from intelligence about what kinds of areas are targets.”

Senator Collins has repeatedly pointed out that Maine is faced with protecting airports, seaports, major road and rail shipping lines, an international border, and extensive coastline. In addition, she pointed out that two of the 9/11 hijackers used Portland as a launching point for their attack.

“All states must receive a fair share of funding, and that funding must be delivered in a way that allows states to apply it with the flexibility local circumstances require. At the same time, we all recognize that certain areas in this country are at greater risk and they do deserve additional funding,” said Senator Collins. “But as I’ve said many times, you cannot simply look at population and population density and equate that with risk and threat.”

Senator Collins has introduced legislation that would redefine the federal homeland security funding formula to target billions of dollars toward high risk states and cities while ensuring that all states receive the resources needed to prevent and be prepared for potential terrorist acts. The Homeland Security Grant Enhancement Act establishes a baseline level of funding that each state will receive while more than doubling the amount allocated to states and cities that are considered high-risk for terrorist attacks. It also streamlines the homeland security grant process in order to deliver federal homeland security grants to local first responders more efficiently and expeditiously.