DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2004
AMENDMENT NO. 1353
Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, I rise to debate that motion and support Senator Dodd in his motion. I am very proud to be joining with him in the Dodd-Stabenow amendment concerning fully providing the resources for our first responders in our communities all across America. I appreciate the constraints our chairman is working under, but I cannot imagine a more important issue for all of us today than this particular amendment.
This is not a partisan amendment. The terrorists who come do not decide who is a Republican or who is a Democrat, where one lives, their age or ethnic background. This is an issue for all of us as Americans, certainly for the people who work in this building who were directly in the line of attack on September 11, certainly for all of those across the country who understand that this is a new world since September 11, 2001.
When it comes to protecting our country from terrorists, we should do whatever it takes, period, to make sure we are safe. We cannot live by artificial limits, by bureaucratic budget procedures. Just as Congress has come together, working with the President, and said whatever our military needs, whatever it takes to prepare our men and women to be successful overseas, to support our military, to support our Department of Defense, we will do, period, to make sure our people are safe abroad as well as at home. We should do no less.
I join with Senator Dodd in saying this should not even be an issue that we are debating once we have seen this reportthe emergency responders are drastically underfunded and dangerously unprepareda report that does not just deal with one department; they look across the range of issues that relate to our folks on the front lines being able to respond, and they have a report about which every single American should be concerned. We should take this as a blueprint and immediately respond to it.
How do we determine what is the right amount to spend to protect our country? I cannot think of a more objective or credible group than the one which put this together. We should listen to the experts, and in this case a bipartisan commission of experts, charged with this task, who determined we need to spend an additional $98.4 billion over 5 years on top of what we are doing today. This is a shocking difference between what the American people need, what we need, and what we are providing as a Congress representing those American people.
This conclusion was reached by an impressive bipartisan commission. As the Senator from Connecticut has already indicated, it is led by former Republican Senator Warren Rudman, former White House cybersecurity chief Richard Clarke, and just to mention a few of those who have put these recommendations together for us and for the American people, a highly respected list of Americans, including the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ADM William Crowe, former Reagan Secretary of State George Shultz, and former FBI Director William Webster.
When coming up with its conclusions, this distinguished panel consulted with organizations such as the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, and the International Association of Fire Fighters. After much deliberation, this panel reached a dramatic conclusion, and the title of its press release says it all:
Nearly 2 years after 9/11, the United States is still dangerously unprepared, and underfunded, for a catastrophic terrorist attack, warns New Council Task Force.
I read from the summary of this report:
Nearly 2 years after 9/11, the United States is drastically underfunding local emergency responders
Police, fire, emergency medical personnel, others
and remains dangerously unprepared to handle a catastrophic attack on American soil, particularly one involving chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or high-impact conventional weapons. If the Nation does not take immediate steps to better identify and address the urgent needs of emergency responders, the next terrorist incident could be even more devastating than 9/11.
Further, the summary reads:
The task force met with emergency responder organizations across the country and asked them what additional programs they truly neednot a wish listto establish a minimum effective response to a catastrophic terrorist attack. These presently unbudgeted needs total $9.84 billion, according to the emergency responder community and budget experts.
The . . . Task Force . . . based its analysis on data provided by frontline emergency respondersfirefighters, policemen, emergency medical personnel, public health providers and otherswhose lives depend upon the adequacy of their preparedness for a potential terrorist attack.
This report says our local communities need much more than we are currently providing. This is not a critique from me, as the Senator from Michigan, it is not a critique by the distinguished Senator from Connecticut, it is not by any politician or any person right now who would gain from some partisan advantage. This is a group of experts on a bipartisan basis who come together as Americans to say we are not doing enough.
This report reaches the same conclusion I have heard from my own first responders in Michigan. I have spent a great deal of time traveling across Michigan since last fall, and I have done over 11 different townhall meetings in Michigan with police departments, large and small, fire departments, police chiefs, sheriffsRepublican sheriffs, Democratic sheriffsthose at the health department, the folks who run the emergency rooms at the hospitals, all of those involved, and overwhelmingly they have said: We are working very hard. We cannot do it alone. Please get beyond the ideological debate and talk about what we need to prepare us to be safe.
It cannot be done just by asking the local city, township or county to provide additional resources alone. This is a national attack on our country. It needs a partnership from all of us, and they are speaking loudly that they need our help. More importantly, we need to make sure they are prepared and they are stepping up to the effort.
Unfortunately, they are receiving less from our State governments that are uniformly in a budget crisis. In Michigan, we are seeing about 26 percent of their general fund budget lost through the economy, through various decisions made at the State level. They need our help.
This amendment is much more than dollars. It is really not about the dollars. It is about being safe. It is about being prepared. It is about saying, We get it; we understand we have to do whatever it takes to be able to say to our own families: We are prepared in case another attack comes.
I heard from Michigan police and firefighters and emergency responders that the issue of radios is not some theoretical debate. The ability to communicate between the fire department and the police department or the city and the county, to be able to communicate in a way to respond most effectively if there is a message or an attack is not happening because of the lack of radios. They do not have the state-of-art radio technology, interoperability, to be able to communicate with one another. Imagine how difficult it is to coordinate a response after a terrorist attack if the department has only antiquated radio equipment. How basic can you get than being able to make sure people can communicate with each other?
This is not rocket science. We are talking about the ability to communicate, so they can call someone; so when you call 9-1-1 you know the folks on the other end can call the right people and talk to them to give you the help you need, to get the response you need in the community.
The Rudman report concluded, on average, fire departments across the country only have enough radios to equip half the firefighters. Only 33 percent had proper breathing apparatus. So there is a one out of two chance that the fire department will be able to communicate and only one-third of the personnel in the community have breathing apparatus. Furthermore, only 10 percent of United States fire departments have the personnel and equipment to respond to a building collapse. The Rudman report also stated that police departments in cities across the country do not have the proper protective gear to safely secure a site following a weapons-of-mass-destruction attack. This type of gear, which we have as Senators and for staff, costs money to procure. Tragically, the men and women on the front lines of the war on terror do not have the equipment. They do not have the equipment I have in my office. That does not make sense. That is not fair. It is not right. There is not one American that would think we are doing the job when they look at the facts in this report.
The Rudman report said public health labs in most States still lack basic equipment and expertise to properly respond if there is a chemical or biological attack. In fact, 75 percent of State labs say they are overwhelmed with current testing loads. It is not that folks do not want to be prepared. It is not that they cannot have the expertise. These are competent people. It is a question of training. It is a question of having the right kind of equipment and technology. This is the United States of America. We can do better. We have to do better.
There are many other concerns. I have heard from local safety officials during my 11 town hall meetings. I heard from police chiefs who say they need resources to provide training, not only to have the trainer come in, but when you take an officer off the beat, off their regular assignment, for a week or 2 weeks or longer, we have to replace them or pay overtime to their replacement. That costs resources which are very difficult to come up with. So training becomes a major challenge for themboth in losing their staff to regular assignments, answering those calls in the neighborhoods, as well as the costs of the training and the equipment needed relating to the training. This becomes a major issue.
I believe the U.S. Government needs the flexibility, as well, so we are not tying their hands. We are saying these are the resources available, you decide what you need in training and equipment and make sure you have enough staff. You make those decisions. This is important. This is front-line defense. I trust the men and women in the State of Michigan and across the country to make the right decisions about what they need to be prepared and to keep us safe.
We have a motion challenging this amendment because it costs dollars. I reiterate, we spend resources and we make priorities every day based on what is important, what are our values, what are the most important things that affect Americans, that affect our families, that affect our communities. I cannot imagine something more important than this issue. I cannot imagine saying to familiesand God forbid something happenswe were not willing to commit what was needed to keep you safe.
As my colleague from Connecticut said, we are spending about $4 billion a month, in other words, $1 billion a week in Iraq, almost $50 billion a year. This amendment costs less than a third of that to keep us safe at home. We know the tax cut passed earlier this year is much more than this amendment. The 10-year cost of the tax cut was almost $1 trillion. The total price tag includes $400 billion in tax cuts for those at the very top income bracket, and those with stock dividends and capital gains. In the State of Michigan there is not one person receiving another tax cut who is doing very well in the State of Michigan who would not say to me: Make sure my family is safe, first. I appreciate having another tax cut, but I want to make sure my family is safe. I am willing to wait a little bit. I will delay that because there is a higher value, a higher priority here. That is, making sure we do not lose human life in America on our own soil through another attack.
We can afford this amendment. All we need to do is slightly scale back some of the tax reliefagain, to those who do very well in our country. We want everyone to do well in our country. We want everyone to have the opportunity to succeed. But we want to make sure, first, that they and their families are safe.
It does not matter how much you make in this country when it comes to a terrorist attack; we are all the same. We all join in wanting to make sure we are safe. God forbid there is another terrorist attack on our country. I hope and pray there will not be. But we must be fully prepared. We cannot be partially prepared. We cannot be half prepared. We need to do whatever it takes to help our firefighters, police officers, and first responders to protect us from terrorism.
As we watch the television news, we see a world in turmoil. There is violence against our own soldiers in Iraq. We watch Iran and North Korea develop nuclear weapons that could be sold to terrorists. We have not yet found Osama bin Laden. We cringe when we hear about increased nuclear tensions between Pakistan and India. And we are now witnessing chaos in Liberia. Since September 11, we live in a new world. We can no longer sit back and wait.
We must take action now to protect the American people. This amendment will do that. This amendment is based on those who have studied and have expertise and care deeply as Americans about keeping us safe and secure. This is not a political amendment. This is not an amendment designed in some way to split Democrats and Republicans. This is an amendment designed to meet the needs of those who are charged with protecting us.
The Homeland Security bill before the Senate provides the Department of Homeland Security with $28.5 billion for the next fiscal year. While it is a first step, this report makes it clear it is not enough to keep us safe. Protecting our country is not something we should simply squeeze into the normal appropriations limits. We are vulnerable. We must act now, not later. Otherwise, I am concerned that we will be sorry.
When my colleagues vote, I urge you to think of all those unmet needs in your State, in your community. Think of all the critical infrastructure that is barely protected, and consider what a biological attack could do to you and your family and to the people you represent, and then join with us in doing what the experts are telling us to do: Provide what is needed, whatever it takes to keep us safe.
We can do better for the American people. We are America; we can do what it takes to keep us safe. This amendment puts us in the direction of doing that. I urge support for it and support for a motion to waive.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Alaska.
Mr. STEVENS. Mr. President, we are hearing a lot about the costs of the war. I am not addressing the need for homeland security per se. But I would point out, this bill before us now is over $29 billion for a Department that did not even exist 6 months ago. During the period of time of the blockade of Iraq following the Persian Gulf war, to carry out the mandates of the United Nations we built a new airbase, Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia, the largest airbase in the world. We built a new airbase in Aviano. We built a new Army base in Kuwait. For 12 years, we maintained forces to blockade Iraq and to enforce the no-fly zones set forth by the agreement with Saddam Hussein after the Persian Gulf war.
I have asked the staff to get me the figures of how much that cost, how much did it cost to carry out the mandates of the United Nations following the Persian Gulf war, primarily because he did not comply with the agreement he made at the termination of that war. I believe it goes into the hundreds of billions of dollars that we spent in 12 years.
It is costing us a great deal of money to keep our forces in the field now. Hopefully, that will come to an end soon. But so has the cost of the blockade of Iraq. So has the cost of Prince Sultan. So has the cost of maintaining that Army base in Kuwait. Very soon we will be able to stand down a considerable portion of the people who are at Aviano in Italy. Those costs, by the way, were in addition to the costs we spent in Bosnia during the same period, and in Kosovo during the same period.
The American taxpayer has been bearing an enormous cost for many years to deal with the deployment of forces overseas. Hopefully, what we have done now will bring to an end, or at least to a very low minimum, the cost of maintaining forces in that area.
I believe we have taken actions that were necessary but I also know that we have done a lot to improve the morale of the Air Force. I personally, along with my good friend from Hawaii, talked with many of the pilots who were flying what we call the CAP, the constant air patrol, over Iraq. They were shot at almost daily by missiles fired by Saddam Hussein. They lived in a period of constant terror, as they flew over those areas, that they would be attacked by the ground-to-air missiles. Thank God, they survived them. But it led to a period of time when our reenlistment rate in the Air Force reversed itself from about 72 percent, down to about 28 percent of our people reenlisted to fly in the Air Force, because of the strain of the constant air patrol over Iraq.
But I do think people ought to keep in perspective, when they say we can afford this, this amendment of the Senator from Connecticut, because we are spending so much money in Iraqwe have been spending a lot of money for a lot of years. The trouble is, we have to come back and have some perspective.
The amendment before us exceeds the budget by an enormous amount. It does not offset that, saying let's stop spending money somewhere else because, in fact, we cannot do that. There is no offset.
Under the circumstances, I think we ought to start having some discipline around here. That is what we are supposed to do because of the Budget Act. The Budget Act was supposed to give us discipline.
We are facing now a constant parade of amendments that the authors know is beyond the budget. The authors know we don't have the money. The authors know we found as much money as we possibly can find to allocate to homeland security for the fiscal year 2004.
I do hope Members will start thinking about the concept of affordability. We will soon stop spending that money that we are spending for the postwar security in Iraq and we will no longer have to maintain the blockade. We have had part of our Coast Guard over there for years, to try to stop the illegal exports and imports into Iraq. We had about 40 percent of our Air Force over there in those two major bases, Prince Sultan and Aviano, to maintain control of the air over Bosnia, Kosovo, and Iraq.
I do think we ought to keep in perspective what we have done, in terms of future expenses for our military. I hope we will not have a justification that we can spend this money the Senator from Connecticut wants to spend because we are spending too much money in Iraq. We are spending a lot of money in Iraq but it is not too much money. It is money well spent because it will terminate the expenses we have had to incur over the last 12 years.
Mr. DODD. Mr. President, before my good friend from Alaska leaves, and he is my good friend, the point I am makingI supported this. The needed resources there make sense. I am not suggesting in any way that the resources we are spending there somehow ought to be subtracted. I was making the point that, while we were doing the right thing, obviously, as part of our securityand no one knows these issues better than the chairman of the appropriations subcommittee and his colleague, DAN INOUYE, when they go into matters of what we need for our national security system. I respect them.
My point here is, we are being told, as we have been told by others, we need to do more at home if we are going to meet the security needs of the American people. Just as we are doing that, we merely pointed out, my colleague from Michigan and I, what we are spending on a weekly basis for reconstruction in Iraq and trying to get Afghanistan on its feet. We accept the notion that is going to be critical. Our point simply was, can you imagine someone coming in saying: "We are not doing enough; we need more to get the job done over there but, I'm sorry, we can't afford to do what our men and women in the Armed Forces need; there are budget caps and we just don't have the resources"?
That argument wouldn't find five supporters here. The point Senator Stabenow and I are trying to make is we have men and women in uniform here as well. They are called firefighters, police, emergency medical personnel, hospital attendants and doctors and physicians and scientists. They are coming to us, in this report, and saying we have some real problems here at home. We are vulnerable. We are vulnerable.
What we are saying is, can we not find the resources? We have identified a source, which this Congress, if it has the will to do it, can come up and meet the challenge.
Ms. STABENOW. Will my colleague yield for a question?
Mr. DODD. I am happy to yield to my colleague.
Ms. STABENOW. I wonder if you might respond a little more on how we will be able to find the dollars? Because, as both of us have indicatedI know you have indicated in Connecticut; I have indicated it in Michiganthere are those who are doing very well, certainly in my State. They have the same concerns as everybody else about being safe and secure. If we ask them to be willing to delay receiving a little bit more back in their pockets, those who are doing very well, in order to be able to put it into keeping their families safe, I think they would be willing to do that.
Isn't that what the Senator is suggesting, that we look at our priorities and decide what is most important in terms of safety and security?
Mr. DODD. The Senator from Michigan is absolutely correct. I represent one of the two most affluenttwo or three most affluent States in the United States. Always, each year when they list what is the most affluent State in the country on the per capita, Alaska, Connecticut, and New Jersey are always competing No. 1, No. 2, No. 3. Of course, we also have some significant poverty in our State. But on a per capita basis, Connecticut is one of the most affluent States. I am confident, as I am standing before you, if you ask any of the people in my State who are in the $1 million or more income categoryand I have a lot of them in my State and I know them; they are tremendously patriotic, successful individualsif you ask any one of them whether they would be willing to forgo some of the tax cut we have provided them over the last 2 years in exchange for getting resources to make this country more secure at home, I guarantee every single one of my affluent constituents would say: Absolutely. Absolutely.
They would be horrified to think that maybe they are being used as an excuse on why we can't do this, why we can't provide the additional resources.
I know we can't break the budget caps. I am not suggesting, nor is the Senator from Michigan, we do that. What the Senator from Michigan suggests is here is a source of revenue for us. Here is a case where some $3 trillion, in 28 monthswhat is $3 trillion? Mr. President, $1 trillion is one thousand billion dollars. We are talking about $15 billion instead of three thousand billion, $15 billion of it to go to make America more secure, not because the Senator from Michigan and I sat down at some point and concocted a number together. We read, and I now put it in the RECORD so all America can read it, a report put together by a distinguished group of Americans, former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Director of the FBI, the CIA, and formerly colleagues of ours who said, and I quote from the report, and it is worth repeating again because it needs to be repeated:
Congress has dangerously delayed the appropriation of funds for emergency responders.
Dangerously delayed. Listen to the conclusion of this report. I will read it again. My colleague, I know, knows this but let me read it.
The terrible attacks of September 11 have shown the American public how vulnerable they are. Because attacks on that scale had never happened before, the United States and the American people were caught underprotected, unaware of the magnitude of the threat facing them. In the wake of September 11, ignorance of the nature of the threat or of what the United States must do to prepare for future attacks can no longer explain America's continuing failure to allocate sufficient resources to preparing local emergency responders. It would be a terrible tragedy indeed if it took another catastrophic attack to drive that point home.
That is the conclusion of George Shultz, of Admiral Crowe, of Les Gelb, of Director Webster. I read the list of the people who make up this report. These, with all due respect to congressional staffers, are Nobel laureates, William Webster, high-ranking former chiefs of staff of the Army, national security advisers, White House employees over three administrations, Ronald Reagan appointees.
This isn't a partisan document. It is compiled by serious Americans who know what they are talking about. And they are telling us we are dangerously inadequate in understanding what needs to be done to make America strong. Many wealthy Americans will be glad to forgo a part of their tax dollars in order to make us more secure at home. I know many of them in Connecticutand I am confident my colleague from Michigan would say the same thing about her constituents
Mr. REID. Mr. President, will the Senator yield?
Mr. DODD. Yes.
Mr. REID. Is this the Rudman report?
Mr. DODD. This is the Warren Rudman report. He chaired it. The senior adviser was Richard Clarke, who served for three American President's, and Jamie Metzl, along with a task force. I have read all of the names. I will put them in the RECORD.
Mr. REID. I ask my friend if he would agree with the statement I am going to make.
I had the pleasure of serving in the Senate with Warren Rudman. I want the RECORD to reflect that Warren Rudman is not some person who just came upon the scene. He is a distinguished American. He is a combat veteran from Korea, a marine, a veteran. He is very proud of that. When he served in the Senate, he did a lot of very distinguished things, not the least of which as chairman and as ranking member of the Ethics Committee for a long period of time. He went into the private sector. He retired from partisan politics and decided not to run for reelection.
No one I know has ever in my presence criticized the former Senator from New Hampshire, Warren Rudman, for being anything other than a straight shooter. Any concern that people may have had was that sometimes he was a little too direct.
Will the Senator agree with me that the distinguished American who led this panel and affixed his name to it is a person who, for lack of a better description, is a very patriotic American, who is, by the way, a card-carrying proud Republican, and who has devoted a great deal of his life to public service and has told us we need to do something to protect the people in the States we represent?
Mr. DODD. In response to my colleague from Nevada, I served with Warren Rudman, as my friend from Nevada did. In fact, I was the fourth cosponsor of the Gramm-Rudman deficit reduction proposal and budget-saving mechanism when it was first introduced and was the subject of such heated debate in this body in the early 1980s.
I heard my colleague from Nevada yesterday talk about what a tight-fisted Senator, Warren Rudman was as a Member of this body as well. He was not someone who was known as a profligate spender. He believed very strongly in budget discipline.
By the way, we are low-balling the numbers. We are offering a little less than $15 billion. That is based on the assumption that States may be doing more.
When you read this report, you will get into some of the details and you will wonder why Senator Stabenow and I didn't offer an amendment with more dollars based on its conclusions.
The Senator from Nevada is absolutely correct. Warren Rudman is an individual who does serious work. This is the second report in which he has been involved. He was involved in an earlier one which was prepared along with another former colleague of ours, Senator Gary Hart, and got rave reviews by all who examined it. This report follows on as a result of that first report to determine where are we now after 2 years.
As I have said over and over again, and as my colleague from Michigan has said over and over again, the conclusion of these serious people is that we are way short of what we ought to be doing. They tell us what needs to be done, and they lay out in fact where the shortcomings are.
Senator Rudman is once again owed a deep sense of gratitude.
It is sort of like the mythical figure Cassandra. For those who love mythology as I do, Cassandra was doomed in mythology to always telling the truth and never being believed. Senator Rudman is becoming sort of the Cassandra in this debate, if this goes where I think it is going.
The Senator from Michigan and I have no illusions. She is a professional person who understands politics. She served in her State legislature for many years. We knew when we got up here that we probably weren't going to get 60 votes on this. So I am not fooled by what I face here with a waiver that we have to apply to a point of order. But we want to be on record, and we want our colleagues to be on record, to say when I was given a choice of where to be on this issue, this is where I came down; this is the side of the ledger on which I want to be recorded.
Maybe we will be surprised and 60 of our colleagues will join us in voting for the waiver. But if that is not the case, let the American public then judge where people were when the choices needed to be made.
I suspect we need to talk about this in more concrete terms.
I was impressed with the remarks of the Senator from Michigan about the comments of the people in Michigan. I believe she held a number of hearings or discussions with people in her State about first responders. I wonder if she might share with us once again some of the concerns she heard from her fire and police and emergency medical personnel about whether or not they believe they are better prepared.
We have heard from our distinguished panel of people who analyze this from more of a global perspective. But on the ground, in local communitiesthat may not have the benefit of Nobel laureates to examine all the laboratories in the country to look at this from a distancewhat are they saying? What are our average police officers and firemen saying? What are our emergency medical personnel saying? How well do they think they are prepared?
Ms. STABENOW. I thank my colleague again for his leadership on this issue.
I have had 11 different meetings from Detroitlarge urban areasto Macomb County, all the way up to Marquette in the upper peninsula, and over to the west side of the State. This report talks about only 50 percent of our firefighters having the radio equipment they need.
I heard firsthand from the folks on the ground, and I am not sure it is even 50 percent. They talked about in some cases the fire department could not talk to the police department in the same city, that the city could not talk to the county.
When we call 911, we expect that call is going to lead to a series of other communications, that it is going to get the right people to us, and that we are going to be able to respond quickly. In the case of a bioterrorism attack, the public health department, of course, is very concerned about the inability to communicate with the fire department. And it is not that they do not have radios; it is that they do not have interoperability. They do not have the same frequency. They do not have the same technology. There is newer and newer technology that allows them to communicate ideally all across the whole State.
We hope we will be developing communications equipment that will have everybody in the county being able to talk to each other and able to talk around the entire State. But the radios, the communications systems were a major issue in those meetings.
The second major issue was training, the ability to have the newest training, the newest equipment in case of a bioterrorism attack. And then, of course, the whole question of added personnel.
I might just add, I believe the sense of urgency occurs here because of the lag time it takes when we approve the dollars to do the training, to get the equipment. I know last year, as a border State, in Michigan, this was a major issue for us. In Detroit, we have the largest border crossing of the northern border. We have over $1 billion in goods that come across the border every day.
And when we put in placethanks to the support of our colleagues on both sides of the aisleadditional resources for Border Patrol and Customs, it has taken almost a year to train those folks. We are just now seeing the increased personnel at the border as a result of decisions made a year ago to increase the dollars.
Even if we do this now, we are talking about months or a year before the training can actually happen and take effect or that the communications equipment can be purchased and put together. I think there is even a greater sense of urgency as a result of the fact that it takes time once we even make the decision.
Mr. DODD. I thank my colleague for her comments. Maybe there are some who believe that terrorism is no longer a problem, that these organizations are no longer viable. I hope there are very few people who would embrace that belief. One needs only to read the papers every day to learn that even in Iraq it is not just a question of those members of the Baath Party who are apparently engaging in the assassination of our U.S. men and women in uniform in the military.
We are now told there are terrorist organizations operating that have gotten into Iraq from Yemen and Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. We know of cell groups. There is hardly a day that does by that we don't read about another group that has been identified or where contacts have been made by organizations. This is a real threat and a growing one. Again, the report points it out.
This is serious business. We should never again have to go through what we went through on 9/11 and the wake of 9/11. We cannot guarantee that, but there will be a tremendous indictment, in my view, historically if we don't act.
Just look at some of these numbers that we have received on the inadequacy. There are 1 million firefighters who put their lives on the line every day. Yet we are told currently two-thirds of all fire departments operate with inadequate stafftwo-thirds of all fire departments, first responders, with inadequate staff.
In fact, as pointed out in testimony before the Committee on Science and Technology of the House of Representatives, on October 11, 2001: Understaffing had caused or contributed to firefighter deaths in Memphis TN; Worcester, MA; Iowa; Pittsburgh, PA; Chesapeake, VA; Stockton, CA; Lexington, KY; Buffalo, NY. There is about a fireman a day who loses their life or is seriously injured.
Now they are being asked to do that which they never would have imagined, such as dealing with chemical materials. Imagine a major terrorist attack with how we had our departments. Look what they had to do on 9/11. Departments from Connecticut went into New York. Departments from New Jersey went into New York. Other departments tried to backfill to cover our departments that left. It was a nightmare.
As the Senator properly points out, they could not even talk to each other. They did not have the proper interoperability of the phone systems. I would like say to my colleague that the problem has been corrected 2 years later, but it has not been. The fact is, it is still an incredible fact that most of our local people cannot even talk to each other, let alone talk across State lines where you have tremendous densities of population.
Again, the budget shortfalls at the local and State level are huge. Pick up your newspaper. Today it is California, $38 billion in deficit. I mentioned earlier what the deficit is in Connecticut. I mentioned what I thought was Michigan's number. My colleague may want to correct me, but I believe it is bigger than $4 billion, as she pointed out. I don't know what it is in Nevada or Alaska. But every State is facing tremendous pressures to meet these obligations. So the numbers are shrinking on the State and local levels.
By the way, while I have been critical about not doing more, I commend the Appropriations Committee. They upped the number $1 billion from what the President wanted. The Commander in Chief, in my view, ought to be leading on this issue and saying to Congress: I will help you get the money. We are going to provide the resources.
With all due respect, we need more help. And if the Commander in Chief is even low-balling a number from what the committee did, below what we are told we need by $15 billion a year, where is the leadership on this issue? I will be happy to yield to my colleague.
Ms. STABENOW. The Senator makes such an important point. I was thinking, as he was speaking about how we are losing a firefighter a dayI believe he said as a result of not being prepared for the challenges they facewe have people now, unfortunately on a daily basis, who are losing their lives in Iraq. We are deeply concerned about our troops.
But can you imagine if we said that only half of our military men and women in Iraq could talk to each other through their radios, that only half or maybe only 10 percent have the training they need, or that they did not have the equipment they need. Our Commander in Chief, rightly soour Presidenthas stepped forward and said: Whatever they need to be prepared, we will make sure they have it.
As the Senator has indicatedand as I have as wellthe folks on the front lines at home, in their uniforms, should have no less consideration. Why don't we say, whatever you needif you are wearing a firefighting uniform, a police officer's uniform; if you are emergency medical personnelyou ought to have whatever you need on the frontline fight because it is a war on terrorism. This should not even be a debate. I think when we compare it, it is startling to think about what we are saying to the men and women on the front lines at home.