Today, Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr. released the following statement after questioning witnesses at the House Committee on Homeland Security hearing, "The Boston Bombings: A First Look."
"My heart goes out to the people of Boston, and I applaud the dedication and bravery that our first responders showed during and after this terrible tragedy," said Rep. Payne, Jr. "As the sole member of the New Jersey delegation on the Committee on Homeland Security, one of my top priorities is protecting the people in my state. Preventing the consolidation of the Homeland Security grant programs and maintaining their current funding levels is critical to ensuring our cities, transportation systems, and first responders have the tools, manpower, and communications capabilities to prepare for and respond in times of disaster. We've seen how well the Homeland Security Grant Programs prepared Boston to respond to such a tragedy, and to cut that funding, I think would be detrimental to this nation's security moving forward."
Witnesses in attendance to testify included Senator Joseph I. Lieberman; Boston Police Department Commissioner Edward F. Davis, III; The Honorable Kurt N. Schwartz, Undersecretary, Executive Office of Public Safety and Security for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; and Professor Erroll G. Southers, Professor and Associate Director of Research Transition, DHS National Center for Risk & Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE), Sol Price School of Public Policy, University of Southern California.
EXCERPTS FROM THE HEARING CAN BE FOUND BELOW:
REP. PAYNE: The Administration has proposed to consolidate the Homeland Security Grant Programs, including the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) and the State Homeland Security Grant Program into one funding pool. Under the proposal, it is unclear whether the grantees would be required to dedicate 25 percent of the grant awards to law enforcement and terrorism prevention activities. Based on the way you've been able to utilize those resources, do you have concerns about the proposed consolidation program?
COMMISSIONER DAVIS: I certainly owe a debt of gratitude to President Obama and to Secretary Napolitano. I have to say that I think that that plan will be detrimental to the further security of our city. I have to say that the UASI program has been extremely helpful and made a difference, and I think it should continue as is.
REP. PAYNE: We've had great experience with [UASI] in Northern Jersey, which has a major airport, port, and chemical installations. The UASI grant has been instrumental for us in being able to do the things we need to do to ensure that [New Jersey] is safe. So I agree with you.
The response efforts following the bombing demonstrated successes in interoperability between agencies, disciplines, and jurisdictions. The Commonwealth received $3.11 million from the Interoperable Emergency Communications Grant (IECG) between FY 08 and FY10 -- the last year that that program received allocated funding. How did the funding from this grant help you to achieve interoperability?
HON. SCHWARTZ: An hour before the bombing, there were public safety agencies -- local, state, and federal -- that were all communicating. Tactical units, command level, voice communications was working. That remained true through the week. If this type of event happens tomorrow, we have the capability of doing this across the state, we have the ability to do this by pushing buttons and flipping switches to make sure that that level of interoperability is established. It's fair to say that none of this would have happened without the homeland security grant streams coming into the Commonwealth.
REP. PAYNE: We need to be cognizant of these types of issues moving forward. We've seen how well it worked in Boston. And to cut that funding, I think would be detrimental to this nation's security moving forward.