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Letter to George W. Bush, President of the United States of America

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Bipartisan, Bicameral Group Urges President to Preserve Homeland Security Grants

The Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Senate and House homeland security committees Wednesday urged President Bush to preserve several homeland security grant programs made permanent in the law this past August in the face of reports the Administration plans to abolish them.

In a letter dated December 12, the bicameral, bipartisan group expressed dismay over an Associated Press report that the Office of Management and Budget proposed to cut homeland security funding by more than 60 percent and totally eliminate most of the grants programs permanently authorized by the President when he signed the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 on August 7, 2007.

"We believe that adoption of such a proposal would abandon our first responders and significantly impair our nation's ability to prevent, prepare for, and respond to potential terrorist attacks and natural disasters," the signers of the letter wrote. They were Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and Ranking Member Peter T. King, R-N.Y.

"If true, the planned abolition of these programs and the proposed evisceration of overall grant funding would mark a dangerous reversal in the Administration's support for homeland security programs and our nation's first responders, and a wholly unjustified departure from a law only recently passed by overwhelming majorities in both Houses of Congress."

A copy of the letter follows:

December 12, 2007

The President
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

As the lead authors of the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 ("9/11 Commission Recommendations Act"), we are writing to express our dismay at reports that the Administration is considering eliminating most of the major homeland security grant programs established by that law. We believe that adoption of such a proposal would abandon our first responders and significantly impair our nation's ability to prevent, prepare for, and respond to potential terrorist attacks and natural disasters.

The 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act (P.L. 110-53), enacted on August 3, 2007, provides long-term or permanent authorization for many of the core homeland security grant programs that support state and local preparedness for natural and man-made disasters, including the State Homeland Security Grant Program, the Urban Area Security Initiative, the Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program, the Emergency Management Grants Program, the Interoperable Emergency Communications Grant Program, public transportation security assistance, railroad security assistance, and over-the-road bus security assistance. In addition to authorizing funding for these programs, the law that you signed provides the first statutory guidance on permitted and prohibited uses for these grants, how the grants should be allocated, and measures to ensure that the grants are spent effectively.

Barely four months after you signed the 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act into law, it has now been reported that the Office of Management and Budget has proposed to abolish all but one of the grant programs authorized by that Act, as well as the port security grants authorized under the SAFE Port Act, Assistance to Firefighters Grants and SAFER Grants authorized by the Federal Fire Prevention and Control Act of 1974, and Buffer Zone Protection Program grants. Instead, new block grants would be created, subject to none of the provisions previously enacted by Congress, and with funding cut by more than 60% from the appropriations for homeland security grants in fiscal year 2007 (which already drastically cut funding from fiscal year 2004 levels).

We believe that such a proposal is at odds with the new homeland security law that we worked so hard to craft and that you signed this summer. The grant programs that would be eliminated provide critical support for prevention, planning, and response efforts by states and localities, and help fund training, exercises, and equipment for our first responders. They help keep our transit systems and our ports secure and protect our country's critical infrastructure. They enable our first responders to communicate in an emergency and support fusion centers that allow officials to share information that can prevent terrorist attacks.

If true, the planned abolition of these programs and the proposed evisceration of overall grant funding would mark a dangerous reversal in the Administration's support for homeland security programs and our nation's first responders, and a wholly unjustified departure from a law only recently passed by overwhelming majorities in both Houses of Congress. We urge you to reconsider this wrong-headed strategy and continue to invest in the courageous men and women who work every day in towns and cities throughout this country to keep the rest of us safe.

Sincerely,

Joseph I. Lieberman
Chairman
Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

Susan M. Collins
Ranking Member
Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

Bennie G. Thompson
Chairman
House Committee on Homeland Security

Peter T. King
Ranking Member
House Committee on Homeland Security


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