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Ms. BERKLEY. Thank you, Mr. Higgins.
Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the Higgins amendment to eliminate a provision in this bill that would harm Las Vegas, Phoenix, Denver, Miami, Atlanta, Baltimore, Detroit, and dozens more cities around the country.
This bill before us would eliminate any funding for the Urban Area Security Initiative for all but the top 10 highest-risk urban areas, leaving over 50 U.S. cities off the list, including my own city of Las Vegas, one of the greatest tourist destinations in the world with over 37 million visitors a year.
For almost a decade, the UASI program has worked to help cities prevent and protect themselves from threats and acts of terrorism. Not too long ago, over 60 U.S. cities received funding to help them purchase equipment, develop recovery plans, and implement counterterrorism strategies.
In my home city of Las Vegas, for example, we've created the Southern Nevada Counter Terrorism Center, where 18 State, local, and Federal agencies all work together to detect and prevent terrorists and other homeland security-related events. This kind of fusion center is based on the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission to help law enforcement agencies communicate more effectively so they can put the pieces together that could prevent attacks. UASI funding has been an essential part of that center, and cutting off funding to that center now would put their excellent and possibly lifesaving work at risk.
Southern Nevada is home to Nellis Air Force Base and Hoover Dam and some of the largest hotels on the planet. We know that some of the 9/11 terrorists visited Las Vegas before the horrific attack on our Nation.
Mr. Chairman, after the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden, we also know that terrorists are increasingly focusing their interests on mid-sized cities rather than large cities. Many of those would now not be receiving Federal funding were this provision to become law. This is being done when the risk of retaliation by both homegrown terrorists and al Qaeda and al Qaeda affiliates is very high. I implore my colleagues not to leave some of America's greatest cities vulnerable and without the necessary funding to protect themselves.
At a time when States and local governments are struggling to balance their budgets, we need help more than ever to prevent and prepare against terrorist attacks. This provision would be salt to the wounds.
I urge support for this amendment.
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