WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Barbara A. Mikulski and Senator Paul Sarbanes (both D-Md.) announced the 2007 Homeland Security spending bill includes key funding for Maryland's security. The legislation addresses several high priority items, including grants for firefighters, first responders, port security and a major project for the Coast Guard Yard at Curtis Bay.
"As a nation fighting a war on terrorism, we need to be safer, stronger and smarter so that we are able to better detect, prevent and respond to acts of terrorism," said Senator Mikulski. "This legislation gets us one step closer to meeting those goals by standing up for our first responders and making sure that if terror strikes, measures are in place to protect and save lives. I will keep fighting to make sure there are resources in the federal checkbook for our homeland security."
"In Maryland and across the Nation, state, local and regional authorities continue to struggle to make their communities safer from potential terrorist activities," said Senator Sarbanes. "In many cases, these communities have taken exhaustive measures to identify their areas of greatest vulnerability, and have made significant advances in enhancing their own preparedness and response capabilities - at considerable cost. The federal government must step up and help our states and localities in protecting our domestic homeland and this funding measure helps local communities to meet those needs."
The spending bill includes $540 billion in federal funding for our nation's firefighters through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program. This competitive program awards one-year grants directly to local fire departments nationwide. Fire departments can apply for federal assistance for training, equipment, staffing, fire education and awareness programs, or firefighting vehicles. While this is significantly more than the President requested, it still falls short of the program's authorized funding level of $1 billion. This year, approximately 18,172 departments nationwide applied for funding, requesting more than $2.3 billion in total. This includes 67 awards to Maryland fire departments totaling $10.78 million.
"I know that these are tight times, but we must do better for our first responders""I know that these are tight times, but we must do better for our first responders. Firefighters risk their lives to protect others. We need to protect our protectors with the best equipment, training and resources," said Senator Mikulski. "I will continue to fight this year for a federal investment in the safety of our first responders."
"These hard-working firefighters deserve the most-up-to-date equipment""As was demonstrated during the 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina tragedies, and during other emergencies across Maryland and the Nation on an almost daily basis, the heroism and diligence of America's firefighters and first responders is crucial to the health and safety of our communities," said Senator Sarbanes. "These hard-working firefighters deserve the most-up-to-date equipment, and I am pleased that this funding is being awarded to assist them in their efforts to protect their respective communities."
URBAN SEARCH & RESCUE
The bill also includes funding for the Urban Search and Rescue Task Force (USAR) program. This year's $30 million in funding is a $10.2 million increase from last year's budget. In Maryland, the Montgomery County Task Force is a member of the program, which structures local emergency personnel into integrated disaster response task forces. These task forces, complete with necessary equipment and specialized training and skills, are deployed by FEMA in times of catastrophic structural collapse. This team responded to the attack on the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.
PORT SECURITY GRANTS
The bill includes $210 million for the Port Security Grant program, a $36 million increase over last year. These funds are granted to localities to finance security enhancements at critical national seaports. Over the years, Senators Mikulski and Sarbanes have strongly advocated increased funding for the Port of Baltimore.
"I've been fighting to upgrade the Port of Baltimore for more than 20 years," said Senator Mikulski. "For years, my challenge was fixing the twists and turns in our channels that were a safety risk. Today it's threats that were unthinkable years ago. Keeping our Port and our people safe from terrorism is one of my top priorities."
"While we have funneled massive amounts of money into airport security, our ports continue to pose a threat to potential terrorist activities""While we have funneled massive amounts of money into airport security, our ports continue to pose a threat to potential terrorist activities," said Senator Sarbanes. "These funds will help protect the Port of Baltimore and its surrounding neighborhoods as we seek to combat terror on land, sea and in the air."
COAST GUARD YARD
The appropriations bill includes funding for a $37.8 million project to be completed at the Coast Guard Yard at Curtis Bay, Md. This project will extend the service life, and increase mission performance for the Coast Guard's aging fleet of Medium Endurance Cutters, and will ensure the survivability of the Yard. The bill also includes language that recognizes the Yard as a critical component of the Coast Guard's core logistics capability that directly supports fleet readiness.
In the next step of the appropriations process,
the bill will move to the Senate floor for a vote, which has not yet been
scheduled.In the next step of the appropriations process, the bill will move to the Senate floor for a vote, which has not yet been scheduled. Following the Senate vote, the House and Senate will meet in Conference Committee to work out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. Both Houses of Congress will vote on the conference bill. Once passed by the House and Senate, the Homeland Security Appropriations bill will go to the President for his signature.
Senator Mikulski is a member of the Appropriations Committee and the Homeland Security Subcommittee. Senator Sarbanes is a member of the Budget Committee.