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Letter to Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security - Urban Area Security Initiative Program Funding

Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) led a bipartisan group of his House of Representatives colleagues, including New York Reps. Louise Slaughter (NY-28), Kathy Hochul (NY-26), in sending a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano requesting that the 32 high-risk urban areas eliminated from the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) program in FY 2011 receive continued funding in FY 2012 to maintain and restore preparedness capability gains.

"Drastic funding cuts to the UASI program threaten to put the preparedness and security capability gains we've achieved at risk," said Congressman Higgins, Co-Chair of the Preserving Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) Capability Gains Caucus. "We ask that as Secretary Napolitano determines funding allocations for FY 2012 that she consider the importance of preserving the valuable homeland security investments that communities like mine in Western New York have already put into place."

"In Western New York we appreciate the many national security needs across the country. While Buffalo and Rochester, two cities along our northern border are denied funding when smaller municipalities in America's interior receive funding, I have to question our security priorities," said Congresswoman Slaughter. "That's why we're asking Secretary Napolitano to keep communities like Western New York in mind because denying our area continued funding puts us all at risk."

"It is vital that Western New York continues to receive this critical funding," said Congresswoman Hochul, a Member of the Preserving Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) Capability Gains Caucus. "Our region's proximity to the Northern Border exposes our communities to potential threats, which is why this funding is vital to preventing attacks and protecting my constituents."

Under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012, the process for funding homeland security grant programs, including UASI, was changed and funding allocations were dramatically reduced. Higgins and his House of Representatives colleagues asked that urban areas that previously received funding under the UASI program be allocated continued homeland security funding to ensure that capability gains made with previously allocated funding is not lost. He is also the sponsor of H.R. 3631, the Preserving Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) Capability Gains Act, which would authorize a grant program for cities eliminated from the UASI program to preserve their homeland security capabilities.

Congressman Higgins was joined in sending the letter to Secretary Napolitano by 31 Members from 25 different urban areas including: Representatives Marsha Blackburn, Corrine Brown, Lois Capps, Marcy Kaptur, Andre Carson, David Cicilline, Emanuel Cleaver, Tom Cole, Francisco Canseco, Jim Costa, Lloyd Doggett, Stephen Lee Fincher, Charles Gonzalez, Raul Grijalva, Colleen Hanabusa, James Himes, Kathleen Hochul, James Langevin, John Larson, Doris Matsui, Gwen Moore, Christopher Murphy, Pedro Pierluisi, Tom Reed, Silvestre Reyes, Cedric Richmond, Bobby Scott, Louise Slaughter, Lamar Smith, Paul Tonko, and John Yarmuth.

The text of the letter is below:

January 30, 2012
The Honorable Janet Napolitano
Secretary
Department of Homeland Security
301 7th Street NW -- Mail Stop 0200
Washington, DC 20528

Dear Secretary Napolitano:

As you prepare to execute your new grant allocation responsibilities under the "Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012" (P.L. 112-74), we are writing to request that you allocate funding to those high urban areas eliminated from the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) program in Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 so that they may maintain, and, in some cases, restore terrorism preparedness capabilities achieved under the program.

Since FY 2003, the Department of Homeland Security has invested over $6.5 billion dollars into developing regional critical emergency preparedness capabilities through the Urban Area Security Initiative program. Funds awarded through UASI have provided local governments, first responders, and law enforcement agencies in high risk urban areas the resources necessary to execute their strategic preparedness plans. We are concerned that, without continued and/or renewed funding, high risk urban areas will be unable to continue developing preparedness capabilities and that the capabilities gained through previous grant awards will be lost.

As you know, well into FY 2011, 32 high-risk urban areas (Albany, NY; Austin, TX; Bakersfield, CA; Baton Rouge, LA; Bridgeport, CT; Buffalo, NY; Columbus, OH; El Paso, TX; Hartford, CT; Honolulu, HI; Indianapolis, IN; Jacksonville, FL; Kansas City, MO; Louisville, KY; Memphis, TN; Milwaukee, WI; Nashville, TN; New Orleans, LA; Oklahoma City, OK; Omaha, NE; Oxnard, CA; Providence, RI; Richmond, VA; Rochester, NY; Sacramento, CA; Salt Lake City, UT; San Antonio, TX; San Juan, PR; Syracuse, NY; Toledo, OH; Tucson, AZ; and Tulsa, OK) that relied on Federal support and partnership to bolster terrorism preparedness suddenly learned that they would have to be eliminated from the UASI program because of limited resources. As a result, many of the effected urban areas report that important terrorism preparedness capabilities have been lost. For example:

* Since being eliminated from the UASI program, the Buffalo-Erie-Niagara UASI has been unable to update its hazardous material response equipment and its plans to update the region's out-dated 9-1-1 system have been stymied.

* Prior to FY 2011, the Tucson UASI used these funds to purchase an Automated Emergency Notification System and develop the Pima County Wireless Integration Network (PCWIN).[1] Since Tuscon was eliminated from the UASI program, the Automated Emergency Notification System is no longer operational and the development of PCWIN has been severely handicapped and is unlikely to be completed on time.

* Similarly, upon being eliminated from the UASI program, the Oxnard UASI is no longer able to maintain training for existing Terrorism Liaison Officers, train and exercise on the newly updated plans, implement the recommendations that result from the Interoperable Communications Gap Analysis, or maintain its Infrastructure Protection Team. After investing so much, the nation cannot afford to gain gaps in our capabilities.

Budget-strapped urban areas across the country need resources to maintain capabilities gained through previous UASI grant awards. When allocating funding among the various State and local programs, we urge you to remember that gains achieved through years of investment with previous UASI funding are now in jeopardy and to allocate the funds necessary to ensure that the capabilities gained through previous UASI awards are maintained.

Thank you for your timely attention to this matter.


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