Bill pumps money into homeland

Homeland security initiatives at the federal, state and local levels will see a significant infusion of money from the $79 billion fiscal 2003 supplemental appropriations bill President Bush signed this week.

Although $62.6 billion is earmarked for the war effort, the rest will go toward increasing security systems at borders, ports and airports, and fighting the threat of bioterrorist attacks at home.

The supplemental budget provides $2.23 billion for grants to first responders, including $200 million for critical infrastructure grants and $700 million more for critical infrastructure to high-threat, urban areas such as New York City.

"We are happy they are finally getting to fund us," said Ed Rosado, legislative director for the National Association of Counties. "We would have liked to have seen additional assistance."

The funding was a victory for mayors and local officials who spent months telling Congress they needed federal money to fight terrorism.

"In my own hometown of Baltimore, every time we go to Code Orange we have to spend an additional $500,000 a week in overtime costs," said Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.).

Nevertheless, lawmakers in urban areas wanted more. Mikulski, along with New York's two Democratic senators, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles Schumer, unsuccessfully sought an additional $3 billion for first responders.

In a letter to their colleagues urging them to support more money for police and firefighters, they said, "Over the past 18 months, the responsibilities of our nation's local police and fire departments and first responders have skyrocketed. As we send over $9 billion overseas to support our efforts against terrorism and the Iraqi regime, we must assume responsibility for the homeland security needs that accompany our efforts."

"The supplemental definitely has more IT funding," said Olga Grkavac, a vice president of the Information Technology Association of America. "Some is directed toward the first responders, but now everything is being labeled 'first responders' by Congress. More funding is needed, but the supplemental is a good start."

Information technology-related spending in the supplemental appropriations bill includes:

* $150 million to prevent and respond to terrorist acts.

* $35 million for the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection's Container Security Initiative to inspect container cargos before they arrive at U.S. ports, and $90 million for portal radiation detection and monitoring technology.

* $170 million for additional personnel at the nation's borders and to develop an entry/exit system for immigration authorities.

* $20 million to fund the nationwide trucking security and safety initiative.

* $54 million for the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services' Interoperable Communications Technology Program. Funding would improve state and local law enforcement cross-jurisdictional communication and information sharing.


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