Congressman Brian Higgins, Co-Chair of the House of Representatives Preserving Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) Capability Gains Caucus, introduced an amendment to the FY 13 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations bill that would restore funding to communities cut from the UASI program. The amendment was not agreed to by a vote of 150 – 266.
“The communities removed from the UASI program were done so as a result of funding constraints, but the terror threat in these regions remains very real,” said Congressman Higgins. “I am disappointed that this bipartisan amendment did not pass, but I will not stop fighting to ensure that capability gains in these communities are not lost.”
This amendment would have increased funding to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s State and Local Program by $58 million to make communities removed from the UASI program, including the Buffalo-Erie-Niagara region, eligible once again. This program prepares major cities with the tools to be prepared for, prevent, and recover from a terrorist attack and other disasters.
Congressman Higgins was joined in introducing this amendment by Co-Chair of the House of Representatives Preserving Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) Capability Gains Caucus Rep. Steve Stivers, in addition to Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, Rep. Alcee Hastings, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver and Rep. Doris Matsui.
Earlier this year, Congressman Higgins formed the UASI Capability Gains Caucus to raise awareness about the preparedness and response capability gains achieved by first responders that have received UASI homeland security funding and advance legislation and policies to preserve first responder capability gains achieved through UASI funding. He is also the sponsor of H.R. 3631, the Preserving Urban Area Security Initiative Capability Gains Act, which would authorize a competitive grant program where high-risk jurisdictions that were previously eligible for the UASI program could compete for funding to preserve their homeland security capabilities.
The text of Congressman Higgins remarks on the House Floor as prepared are below:
Mister Chairman, my amendment, which is cosponsored by Representatives Stivers, Hanabusa, Hastings, Cleaver, and Matsui is a bipartisan effort to provide essential public safety funding to communities across the country that have been determined to be at high risk of a terror threat.
This amendment would provide an additional $58 million to state and local grant programs that the Secretary of Homeland Security should use to increase eligibility for the Urban Areas Security Initiative to all communities at high risk, including the Buffalo area which I serve.
The intent is to restore the eligibility of these communities to again participate in UASI after being haphazardly cut in the past.
The Buffalo-Niagara region was made ineligible without merit. The area includes four international border crossings and the busiest passenger crossing along the Northern Border with Canada, the largest electricity producer in New York State, and the area was home to the al-Qaeda terrorist cell, the Lackawanna Six. It sits along two Great Lakes which contain the largest fresh water supply in the world, and is within a 500 mile radius of 55% of the American population and 62% of the Canadian population.
Buffalo is not alone either. Border communities like El Paso, San Antonio, and Austin were cut. Cities in close proximity to large ports, refineries, and utilities like Columbus, New Orleans, Memphis, Nashville, and Oklahoma City were cut. 36 communities in were from all across the country. Now as we are only beginning to realize the threats posed to these places, it is penny wise and found foolish to leave them without the resources to maintain the capacity gains they developed through UASI.
Mr. Chairman, the 9/11 Commission made it clear that protecting the homeland from terrorist threats can and should be a federal government priority. Yet the Department has hedged on this commitment by excluding too many vulnerable communities that need to participate in this DHS program.
We know that the threats to these areas are real and we should be doing everything possible to provide law enforcement with the tools to prevent and respond to them.
Again Mr. Chairman, I urge my colleagues to support this bipartisan amendment because the terror threat to these communities is real and it is dynamic. And we should be doing more, not less, to empower communities to protect themselves from these threats.
Thank you and I yield back the balance of my time.