Members of New Jersey Congressional Delegation Call for Increased Security Funding for Urban Areas

Mar 15, 2016 Issues: National Security

Washington, D.C.  - Today, Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10), a member of the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security, and U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, led a letter urging the co-chairs of the Senate and House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security to fund the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) Program at no less than $600 million in the Fiscal Year 2017 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations bill.  The FY17 President’s Budget funds the UASI program at $330 million, a $270 million cut representing a 45 percent decrease in funding in one year. Payne, Jr. and Booker were joined on the letter by U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and U.S. Reps. Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-6), Frank LoBiondo (NJ-2), Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-09), Albio Sires (NJ-08), Donald Norcross (NJ-01), and Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12). 

"New Jersey, in addition to neighboring New York, is home to 'the most dangerous two miles in America.' This stretch of potentially vulnerable targets include Newark Liberty International Airport, Port Newark/Elizabeth, which is the third largest port in the country and the largest port on the East Coast, critical passenger and freight rail lines, chemical and petroleum plants, New Jersey’s stretch of I-95, all situated next to some of the state’s most densely populated cities,” the lawmakers wrote. "UASI, as you know supports metro areas, including Newark and enhances the state’s overall security and preparedness by providing funding to train, equip, and pay overtime costs to first responders who are on the front lines of our local counterterrorism and complex crisis response.”

The UASI Program provides funding to address the unique planning, organization, equipment, training, and exercise needs of high-threat, high-density urban areas, and assists them in building an enhanced and sustainable capacity to prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from acts of terrorism.  Per the 9/11 Act, states are required to ensure that at least 25 percent of UASI appropriated funds are dedicated towards law enforcement terrorism prevention activities.

The full text of the letter is as follows:

15 March 2016 

The Honorable John H. Hoeven, Chairman Subcommittee on Homeland Security 

Committee on Appropriations

United States Senate    

Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable John Carter, Chairman

Subcommittee on Homeland Security

Committee on Appropriations

United States House of Representatives

Washington, D.C. 20515

 

The Honorable Jeanne Shaheen, Ranking Member

Subcommittee on Homeland Security 

Committee on Appropriations

United States Senate    

Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Lucille Roybal-Allard, Ranking Member

Subcommittee on Homeland Security 

Committee on Appropriations

United States House of Representatives           

Washington, D.C. 20515

                                                         

Dear Chairman Hoeven, Ranking Member Shaheen, Chairman Carter, and Ranking Member Roybal-Allard:

We thank the Committee for its past support for state and local preparedness grants. The Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) Program is critical because it assists high-threat, high-density urban areas in efforts to build and sustain the capabilities necessary to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from acts of terrorism and other threats. These grant programs are the primary funding mechanism for building and sustaining national preparedness capabilities. In FY15 and FY16, the committee approved $600 million for UASI as part of the State and Local Programs in the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) budget. The FY17 President’s Budget cuts the UASI program by $270 million, a decrease of 45 percent in funding in one year.  Therefore, as you prepare for the Fiscal Year 2017 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations bill, we respectfully request that the Committee  appropriate no less than $600 million or the highest funding possible for UASI.

The proposed cuts to this program do not reflect the needs of urban areas, which are proposed at a time when more attention is needed to adapt to a changing threat environment in the wake of the events in San Bernardino, CA, Garland, TX and Aurora, CO. The Homeland Security FY17 President’s Budget includes funding for efforts to counter violent extremism (CVE), to help states and local communities prepare for, prevent, and respond to emergent threats from complex coordinated terrorist attacks. While the newly created Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Community Partnerships (OCP) becomes operational, grants to local communities for countering violent extremism may come from UASI. However, a precipitous decline in UASI funds will not be sufficient to meet the current needs of frontline responders and new CVE efforts, which would cause a gap in our capabilities.

Secretary Jeh Johnson, testifying before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs stated that “building trusted partnerships with diverse communities is essential to successfully countering violent extremism and curbing threats to the safety of our country. These communities must be empowered to reach those individuals most susceptible to the slick internet appeal of ISIL before they turn to violence.” This is why Department of Homeland Security grant programs to states and local communities are so crucial - these citizens are on the frontline of a number of threats to their local communities.

Finally, New Jersey, in addition to neighboring New York, is home to “the most dangerous two miles in America.” This stretch of potentially vulnerable targets include Newark Liberty International Airport, Port Newark/Elizabeth, which is the third largest port in the country and the largest port on the East Coast, critical passenger and freight rail lines, chemical and petroleum plants, New Jersey’s stretch of I-95, all situated next to some of the state’s most densely populated cities. UASI, as you know supports metro areas, including Newark and enhances the state’s overall security and preparedness by providing funding to train, equip, and pay overtime costs to first responders who are on the front lines of our local counterterrorism and complex crisis response.

We recognize your commitment to ensuring our critical homeland security funds are spent responsibly and efficiently. We are confident this critically important program will provide our communities with the necessary support to continue to counter violent extremism and protect our homeland. Thank you for your consideration and for your continued commitment to our nation’s security.

Sincerely,

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