U.S. Senator Susan Collins, Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, today released the following statement in response to the Administration’s release of its proposed Fiscal Year 2010 Department of Homeland Security budget:

“As our nation confronts the challenges of terrorism, natural disasters, and emerging threats such as cyber attacks and drug cartel violence, I am disappointed that the Administration’s budget proposal provides only a slight overall increase in homeland security funding. Moreover, with the additional cuts proposed by the Administration for the next four years, the Department of Homeland Security may be hard-pressed to prevent, prepare for, and respond effectively to the threats we face.

“Critical resources are needed to supplement efforts already underway on our southwest border to combat drug, gun, and cash smuggling by the drug cartels in Mexico. Senator Lieberman and I included $550 million for federal agents, investigators, and other resources to fight the Mexican drug cartels in the recently passed budget resolution – significantly more than what the President has proposed. The Administration’s budget also underfunds personnel at Customs and Border Protection, leaving too few agents to guard the nation’s borders and to promote legitimate trade and travel.

“The President’s proposed budget could also hurt our state and local partners who are often the first to respond to natural disasters and terrorist threats. I am concerned that proposed cuts to the Fire Act and the Port Security Grant programs will deprive first responders and local communities of the resources desperately needed to secure our nation.

“It is encouraging that the budget does recognize the need to increase funding for cyber security, bombing prevention, and technological advancements along the northern border. An effective response to cyber threats will require coordination among several government agencies, law enforcement, and private sector critical infrastructure owners and operators.

“I also applaud the Administration’s proposals to increase staffing and resources for the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, the Chief Procurement Officer, and the Inspector General. These increases will provide additional oversight of departmental activities, improve contract management, and protect Americans’ civil liberties.

“At a time when budgets are tight, difficult decisions must be made. We cannot, however, underfund our nation’s homeland security. I look forward to hearing further details of the Administration’s plan at the hearing our Committee is scheduled to hold next week.”