Department of Homeland Security Appropriation Act, 2014

Floor Speech

By:  Bill Pascrell, Jr.
Date: June 5, 2013
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. PASCRELL. Madam Chair, I rise to express my support for the Urban Area Security Initiative Nonprofit Security Grant Program. The Nonprofit Security Grant Program, administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, provides critical support to nonprofit organizations at high risk of terrorist attack.

This is not a theoretical threat. This is a real threat.

For example, a string of anti-Semitic hate crimes took place just 2 years ago targeting synagogues in Bergen County, New Jersey, which I represent. These heinous acts culminated in arson when a fire bomb was thrown through the window of an Orthodox Jewish temple, the residence of a rabbi, his wife, his five children, and his father. Thankfully, the rabbi and his family escaped serious injury in this attack, and local authorities have arrested the suspects and are in the process of bringing them to justice.

Other events across the country have shown the continuing need for these grants as well. Last year, a gunman killed six and wounded four in a mass shooting at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

A security guard was tragically killed several years ago at the Holocaust Museum here in Washington by a Holocaust denier and White supremacist. Crimes are not being investigated by White supremacists in this country, just as an aside thought.

These are just a handful of the examples showing the vulnerability of nonprofit organizations to attack.

The Nonprofit Security Grant Program was designed precisely to allow at-risk, nonprofit organizations such as houses of worship and community centers to protect themselves from these types of tragedies by acquiring and installing equipment to ensure against potential attacks. These capital improvements include upgrading security measures, such as installing alarms, barriers, cameras, or controlled entry systems.

In fiscal year 2011, the year during which these terrible events took place in Bergen County, the Nonprofit Security Grant Program was allocated $19 million. For the past 2 years this amount has been reduced by nearly half, to $10 million, despite the ongoing need for this assistance.

If we can't protect our houses of worship, what can we protect?

The program is funded out of the Department of Homeland Security's State and Local Programs account, and allows the Secretary discretion to allocate this funding as she sees fit, or he sees fit, who's ever there.

I call upon the Secretary to allocate at least $15 million to the Nonprofit
Security Grant Program as a step towards restoring adequate funding to this vital program. Although I hope that we can bring this funding back to the 2011 level and beyond, $15 million should be the baseline level of funding these vital programs.

I also believe that the Nonprofit Security Grant Program should receive its own dedicated funding, rather than competing with other important initiatives for a small share of the Department's State and Local Programs' dollars.

I urge my colleagues to support the Nonprofit Security Grant Program in order to ensure that these nonprofit organizations, which serve as the heart of our communities, receive the protection they need.

Madam Chair, let me just add one other thing, and that is, it reduces a tremendous amount of anxiety at these houses of worship--and I mentioned a few religions here just now, but I can cite others--reduces the anxiety of being safe even where you sleep or even where you worship.

Now, we had the right idea. This was a bipartisan idea in 2010, 2011, and before that. Why can't we do the right thing?

It's not that much money. It will help a lot of institutions to protect themselves, especially when you put in a camera or the other things that I mentioned. It makes people feel a lot more relaxed and it reduces anxiety.

I hope that we can do this. I know, Madam Chair, and I'm sorry if I'm appealing to you directly, which I am. Madam Chair, you understand this program very, very well. I would solicit your support for this. And I think it's very important because it's going to stop terrorism in this form.

I mean, this gentleman was sleeping with his family, the rabbi, and the bomb came in through the window. It was thrown up to the second floor and exploded. I mean, can you imagine the trauma for those children?

I apologize for directing my attention to you because you know about these things, and I'm asking you to be helpful to me.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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