BIDEN Bill Strengthens Our First Line of Defense Against Terrorism
Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D-DE) today introduced the Homeland Security & Law Enforcement Improvements Act of 2008 (S. 3524), legislation designed to improve security in America's communities and to enhance law enforcement's capabilities to respond to major incidents. The bill ensures that state, local and tribal law enforcement are full partners in efforts to prepare for, prevent and respond to terrorist attacks or other major events.
"The local cop on the beat has always been our first line of defense against violent crime and homeland security threats," said Senator Biden. "This bill fills an important gap in homeland security planning. It makes sure that local law enforcement is funded and equipped to help prevent - and, if necessary, respond to - another terrorist attack."
Traditional law enforcement responsibilities like fighting violent crime and patrolling city streets are compatible with and complimentary to protecting Americans from terrorist threats. The Homeland Security & Law Enforcement Improvements Act improves preparation, prevention and incident response by ensuring that homeland security strategies incorporate the expertise and manpower of state, local and tribal law enforcement. Moreover, the legislation ensures that law enforcement has they tools they need to be effective homeland security partners.
"Senator Biden has the security of Delaware and the United States in the vanguard of his legislative agenda," said Colonel Rick S. Gregory, New Castle County Chief of Police. "The Homeland Security and Law Enforcement Improvements Act of 2008 takes the steps necessary to ensure full partnership and continued emphasis on local law enforcement as part of America's defense against terrorism."
Despite being a state along the Amtrak corridor, with a major population center, a major seaport and several major bridges, Delaware's federal homeland security assistance has been cut from nearly $19 million in fiscal year 2003 to only $6.17 million this year. This means our first line of defense - local law enforcement officers - are being forced to do more with less. This legislation will allow Delaware to apply for homeland security grant funding to help keep our communities safe.
The Homeland Security & Law Enforcement Improvements Act will also help cut the red tape and reduce communication barriers. The legislation vests the responsibility for coordinating federal, state, local and tribal agencies in an Assistant Secretary for State and Local Law Enforcement, who reports directly to the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. In addition, the Homeland Security & Law Enforcement Improvements Act of 2008 will:
Ensure that local law enforcement is a full partner in homeland security by increasing the authority of the Assistant Secretary for State and Local Law Enforcement, who will report directly to the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (instead of a lower-level official as is currently the case) and by providing him or her with budget and program management authority;
Ensure that local law enforcement has the resources needed to secure America's cities against terrorism by restoring full funding to the Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program (the only program dedicated to the unique needs of law enforcement) and authorizing $500 million for the program per year;
Ensure that first responders have the resources needed to react to incidents by extending the Commercial Equipment Direct Assistance Program as an authorized program so that first responders can select, procure and become trained in the use of specialized equipment/technology to respond to a terrorist attack;
Ensure swift and coordinated responses to major incidents by creating, funding and establishing best practices for Law Enforcement Deployment Teams; and
Ensure coordinated information sharing by establishing an Information Sharing Resource Center within the Department of Homeland Security to act as a central source of technical assistance for intelligence sharing among federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies.
"We appreciate Senator Biden's continued leadership, support and attention to the needs of law enforcement," said Chief Gil Kerlikowske, President of the Major City Chiefs Association. "The provisions of this bill will provide the central leadership, resources and policies that local law enforcement need to prevent and respond to terrorist activity. We will be actively encouraging other members of Congress to join with Senator Biden in getting this bill passed as quickly as possible."