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Public Statements

Urban Areas Security Initiative

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. REYES. Mr. Chair, I rise to support the amendment offered by Mr. Higgins that would increase funding to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's State and Local Program by $58 million to allow communities such as the one I represent, El Paso, Texas, to be eligible for Urban Areas Security Initiative, UASI, funding under the FY2013 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill.

As you know, UASI provides funding to address the unique planning, organization, equipment, and training needs of high-threat, high-density urban areas. The program assists in building an enhanced and sustainable capacity to prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from acts of terrorism.

Unfortunately, the FY12 Homeland Security Appropriations bill contained provisions that would arbitrarily deny funding to more than 50 cities like El Paso, Texas. These hinder the progress that communities like El Paso, have made to prevent, protect against, respond to and recover from terrorist attacks and could potentially undermine the ability of these cities to safeguard their communities.

As former Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, I know very well the importance of providing our cities with adequate resources to prepare, prevent, and protect against attacks. This is a time for our communities to remain vigilant. It is unwise to cut off resources by including arbitrary language that restricts funding for cities like El Paso, which sits on the U.S.-Mexico border across from what is arguably one of the most violent cities in Mexico--Ciudad Juarez. Yet, despite this, El Paso is ranked the safest large city in the U.S. I attribute this to the great work of law enforcement in our community which is supported by resources provided by UASI under the Department of Homeland Security's State and Local Grants programs. UASI has directed more than $21.8 million to El Paso since 2007. Additionally, El Paso--Juarez is a major center for manufacturing and international trade and commerce. El Paso is home to one of the largest ports of entry on the U.S./Mexico border, and is recognized as one of the top trading points in the entire United States. El Paso is home to Fort Bliss, one of the United States largest military bases and the Department of Defenses top ranked military asset.

In 2010, El Paso, Texas received $5,389,900 as part of the UASI program and an additional $75,000 through the UASI Nonprofit Security Grant Program to help nonprofit organizations at high risk of attack and located within one of the UASI-eligible areas.

With continued violence in Mexico and other potential security threats in our area, these funds are especially critical. As our local governments continue to face budget difficulties, these federal grants help ensure that our local law enforcement agencies have the resources they need to ensure El Paso remains the safest large city in the U.S.

El Paso has a track record of wisely investing UASI funds in projects such as an emergency notification system, an information fusion center, urban search and rescue teams, hazardous materials specialty teams, and critical interoperable communications infrastructure upgrades.

The UASI grant has provided the El Paso Region with equipment such as: chemical and hazardous materials detectors, thermal imaging cameras, personal protective equipment, command units, generators, tactical ballistic helmets and vests, security systems, response vehicles, emergency notification system, and even medical cache for H1N1 pandemic, as well as numerous other projects.

The grant funds have also assisted in coordination exercises, including: ranged interdepartmental communication and training, agency communication and training, and EOC exercises to regional cross-discipline and multi-agency training scenarios. All of the exercises are compiled and analyzed through After Action Reports, which are indispensable as training tools to reflect our areas of strength and weakness. In addition, the grant has also funded training such as National Incident Management System, Bomb Team, Hazmat, and other training exercises deemed eligible on the grant.

El Paso area communities have all benefited from the regional UASI by significantly increasing their capabilities. The funds allowed for the purchase of equipment and training such as those outlined by the Department of Homeland Security's National Planning Scenarios and Target Capabilities Lists. I urge my colleagues to support Mr. HIGGINS amendment, the Urban Area Security Initiative, to ensure that our communities and our country remain safe. Mr. Higgins' amendment ensures that communities like mine in El Paso, Texas receive the support they need from the UASI program.

I urge my colleagues to support this amendment and help continue to keep our large cities safe.

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