Lieberman would up ante on first-responder funding

The chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee proposed March 12 to add $3.4 billion in fiscal 2008 above the White House’s budget to bolster first responder programs in the Homeland Security Department.

Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, an Independent who caucuses with the Democratic party, said he wants to add $479 million for the Urban Area Security Initiative, which provides counterterrorism funding to major cities, which would bring that program's total to $1.2 billion.

Other increases proposed by Lieberman are:

  • Another $913 million for the State Homeland Security Grant Program.
  • Adding $913 million to the Emergency Management Preparedness Grants program.
  • Spending $777 million more for firefighters and $400 million more for interoperable communications.

President Bush’s proposed budget does not provide enough support for state and local agencies for training, equipment and planning, Lieberman said. The White House budget proposal keeps up with the rate of inflation, Lieberman wrote in a news release, but provides no substantial increase.

“This is the fourth straight year that the administration has proposed significant reductions in homeland security funds for first responders,” Lieberman said. “If the President’s budget were enacted, overall grant funding would be cut by a staggering 40 percent since FY 2004 — seriously limiting the ability of state and local officials to protect their communities against the ever-present threats of terrorism and natural disasters.”

Lieberman criticized DHS for publicizing a new $1 billion grant program for interoperable communications, funded by the Federal Communications Commission’s auctioning of radio spectrum as an offset for reductions in the DHS budget request. Those funds were not intended to replace overall grant assistance, Lieberman said.

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