This week, U.S. Congressman Billy Long continued his push for improved disaster relief and border security as three of his amendments passed the Committee on Homeland Security to be taken up for a vote in the House of Representatives. Long's amendments, the FEMA Flexibility Act of 2011, an amendment that would keep our border's safe, and an amendment to protect HAM radio spectrum, are now in the Homeland Security Authorization Bill.
The FEMA Flexibility Act of 2011, originally a bill but now an amendment, would give the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) resources to immediate supply disaster relief aid. Following a disaster, there is an urgent need for basic items like bottled water, first aid kits, and baby formula. To get these supplies to disaster victims quickly, FEMA relies on pre-purchased stockpiles. Recent tragedies in Joplin, Missouri, and throughout the country have shown that these stockpiles are often not enough to meet demand. FEMA representatives make up for this shortage by procuring "micro-purchases" to secure additional items.
The FEMA Flexibility Act of 2011 Act would provide the Department of Homeland Security, which overseas FEMA, with the authority to raise the spending limit from $3,000 to $15,000 so additional aid could be purchased when supplies become limited.
"The FEMA Flexibility Act of 2011 Act gives FEMA the flexibility to purchase the necessary equipment without wasting precious time," said Long. "As someone who saw disaster recovery with my own eyes, I know that it is vital to get the right resources to the right people as quickly as possible because lives depend on it."
Long's second amendment would keep our borders safe by giving the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) the ability to purchase state-of-the-art off-the-shelf technology to defend the border and obtain operational control. Previously, new systems used to defend the border were untested and unable to integrate with existing technology, leaving our border vulnerable. This amendment would allow DHS to prioritize off-the-shelf solutions that would better integrate new border technology with existing technology and help the border patrol immediately respond to incursions along our national borders.
"We need to keep our country safe and to do that we need secure borders," said Long. "Using second rate technology that is untested and unproven doesn't cut it when it comes to keeping our nation safe."
Long's third amendment would protect HAM amateur radio operator spectrum. As part of the 9/11 recommendations, our nation should transition to a national wireless broadband network to aid our first-responder community during disasters. Unfortunately, to transition, certain frequencies of spectrum will be auctioned off to finance this new public safety network. The auctioned off spectrum would take away frequencies used by HAM radio operators. Since HAM radio operators play a vital role in emergency response and disaster recovery, to limit their spectrum could be devastating during an emergency. Long's amendment makes sure that the spectrum allocated for the public safety network would leave the spectrum used by HAM radio operators still available for use.
"Giving our first responders the tools they need to respond to disasters will always be one of my top priorities," said Long. That is why I support a national public safety wireless broadband network, and that is why I support HAM radio operators who assist in times of disasters."
Congressman Long is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security and worked with FEMA during the disaster response in Joplin. In Congress, Long has championed disaster assistance improvements and keeping our borders safe.