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Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Ms. RICHARDSON. Mr. Chair, I rise today in reluctant opposition to H.R. 5855, Homeland Security Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2013. H.R. 5855 provides $39.1 billion in discretionary funding for Department of Homeland Security (DHS), a decrease of $484 million below last year's level and a decrease of $393 million below the President's request.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appropriations bill includes funding for all components and functions of DHS, including Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Coast Guard (USCG); Secret Service (USSS), the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD), which includes Infrastructure Protection and Information Security (IPIS) and the Federal Protective Service (FPS), the Office of Health Affairs (OHA); the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC), the Science and Technology directorate (S&T), the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO), departmental management, Analysis and Operations (A&O), and the Office of the Inspector General (OIG).

Mr. Chair, I would like to thank my friends Chairman Robert B. Aderholt and Ranking Member David E. Price on their hard work on the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act. Although this bill provides adequate funding for some programs that I support, they are far outweighed by some unexplainable provisions in the bill.

This bill underfunds the Federal Air Marshals program by $50 million which will reduce coverage on high-risk flights. The Administration has echoed my sentiment in a recent statement on administration policy. I also have reservations about extending a civilian pay freeze through fiscal year 2013. This is neither sustainable nor desirable.

As a Member of the House Homeland Security Committee, I cannot support this bill. We as Members of Congress have a responsibility to protect our communities from any possible danger. For this reason, there is no higher priority than to adequately fund our homeland security, particularly our first responders such as firefighters.

Firefighters are often the first responders to any and every emergency. As we saw on 9/11 firefighters are dedicated to saving lives and we must provide them with the resources to maintain their morale and readiness. Stringent budget cuts on the local level have left fire departments understaffed, unprepared, and unequipped to perform their duties to highest level.

Fire Prevention and Safety (FP&S) and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant programs attempt to ameliorate this deficiency. In this bill both grant programs are once again underfunded. This legislation only funds up to 25 percent of the necessary funds required to effectively support local fire departments with hiring fire-fighters, providing modern safety gear, modern fire trucks, and other vital tools to our first responders.

It makes no sense to weaken our Homeland Security program by cutting their resources in a time when terrorist threats continue to put our Nation at risk. We as Members of Congress must unite and assist our brave first responders in their efforts to help contain any threats by providing them with all necessary resources, rather than turn our backs and leave them without sufficient funding.

Mr. Chair, DHS is charged with safeguarding America against diverse and relentless adversaries. Charged with this difficult but important task, providing DHS with the necessary provisions is a no brainer. But this bill has come short of providing those provisions. I urge my colleagues to oppose H.R. 5855 so we have that opportunity to provide our first responders with those provisions.

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