It's always a pleasure to be in San Antonio, and it's a special honor to be with people like you, who are so dedicated to the well-being of their fellow Texans.
Whether you're on yet another preparedness exercise, or a search and rescue operation after a major storm, your selfless service makes our state a better place to live.
People already move to Texas to take part in our strong economy, enjoy our state's natural beauty, and immerse themselves in our culture, but your dedication ensures they can enjoy those qualities in safety.
Whether you pilot a Texas Military Forces helicopter or fly a desk, everyone here has a role to play, in our state's forward-leaning approach to emergency management, and homeland security.
It takes a special kind of person to swim upstream against the crowd fleeing danger and we're proud to have so many of you in Texas. Late last year, when eyes of the nation were drawn to our state, as a terrorist shooting unfolded on the biggest military post in Texas, our first responders stood tall.
From the time the gunfire began, until the last victim was released from the hospital, the image burned into our nation's consciousness was that of brave Texans helping others.
I don't know if people were surprised that Killeen police officers sprinted toward the shooter, or that EMTs exposed themselves to gunfire while assisting the wounded, because that's what our first responders do, but everyone I know was grateful that we have such principled people on our side.
Things weren't quite as busy in 2009 as they had been the previous year, thanks to a quiet hurricane season. If nothing else, that respite gave us time to reflect on the lessons learned from a year that saw multiple storms hammer our coast, including the most destructive storm in Texas history.
While things were a little calmer on the waterfront, we did face other challenges, including the threat of pandemic flu, as the word H1N1 became a household phrase. That just goes to show you that we can't afford to relax, or let our guard down, because you never know where or when the next crisis may happen.
Here in Texas, you never know if that next crisis is going to be a wildfire, a flood or even a massive snow storm, but our coordinated teams of first responders, local officials, volunteer organizations, Texas Military Forces, and state agencies are always ready.
The old expression "eternal vigilance is the price of safety" is as true today as it ever was. Fortunately, we benefit from the leadership of strong legislators, like Senator Carona and Representative Corte, who have led the charge to improve safety and security.
For example, the legislature stepped up to the plate last year, and added $62 million in disaster funds that will help communities heal from past storms, and prepare for the next challenge.
We also accelerated our efforts to confront the transnational gangs that operate in some of our prisons, then radiate outward into our communities, applying terror tactics to build their influence, and impress the drug cartels that sign their paychecks.
We got that ball rolling in 2008, with $4 million worth of grants to local law enforcement on the front lines, including $500,000 right here in San Antonio. We kept it rolling with an omnibus gang bill in 2009.
This bill funded electronic monitoring of gang members, the creation of gang-free zones, and the establishment of civil liability for gang members and the damage they cause.
We also funded a gang intelligence section within our state's anti-crime information sharing center, as well as investigations and prosecutions. Today, I am announcing a $1.7 million grant to fund a Border Prosecution Unit.
This collaborative effort among the border region's sixteen district attorneys will increase the number of prosecutors and specialized investigators, handling the increased cases of border-related crime, brought to the surface by our enhanced efforts.
As drug cartels and gangs have adapted and changed their methods, we are staying ahead of them with our Ranger Recon teams, that coordinate with local, state & federal law enforcement, to further impede trafficking lanes into our country.
These units have the know-how, the skill and the experience, to deal with new hot spots as they flare up, and the support to shut them down.
Programs and technology like this are valuable, of course, but it's the men and women on the ground, who are the strength behind our homeland security efforts. We owe it to them and the people they protect, the support, equipment and training they need to respond to any emergency on Texas soil.
Because Washington has dropped the ball on border security, we've continually invested in that area, to the tune of more than $200 million over the past two legislative sessions. Unfortunately, Washington continues to under-deliver on their responsibilities, especially when it comes to adequately supporting the brave men and women of the Border Patrol, with proper staffing and support.
Almost exactly a year ago, I requested 1,000 National Guard troops under Title 32 control to engage in border security, to perform recon work, support state and local authorities, and conduct maritime and airborne operations. To date, Washington still has yet to approve our request.
I believe our request deserves a more timely response, because nothing beats boots on the ground, for interdicting crime, whether that's a cop on the beat or a peace officer on the border.
These smugglers bring across drugs, money, and people who face a future of exploitation, or worse, at the hands of traffickers. In a post-9/11 world, we also have to consider what else might get smuggled across the border in the middle of the night.
That's why I continue to call for all measures to be taken to protect our southern border, including the deployment of Predator drones. When it comes to protecting our citizens, the stakes are simply too high for us to give anything less than our best.
In the meantime, we'll do what we have always done: continue preparing for any contingency. On that front, Texas is better prepared than any other state to handle the full spectrum of threats, be they natural or manmade.
We're better prepared because we invest in it, and because we trust our emergency management community. Part of the rugged Texas mindset includes a belief that local experts have the best solutions to local problems.
After all, it's the people who step forward to help their neighbors that make the real difference, and we will continue to rely on experts like you, to make that step as quick and easy as possible.
On behalf of 24 million Texans, let me just say thank you for all you do and thank you for your vigilance.
May God bless you and, through you, may God continue to bless the Great State of Texas.