Homeland Security Bill Slashes Millions of Dollars from Region
As the House of Representatives considers FY2012 Homeland Security Appropriations (H.R. 2017), Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27), a member of the Homeland Security and Foreign Affairs Committees, announced plans to introduce an amendment to change a portion of the bill that restricts the Buffalo-Niagara region and other cities across the nation from being eligible for Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) Program Funding.
Congressman Dave Reichert joined Higgins in introducing the bipartisan amendment, which was also cosponsored by Congressmembers Tonko, Capps, Wasserman Schultz, Ellison, Cuellar, Moore, Fudge, Wilson, Reyes, Berkley, Brown, Matsui, Himes, Heck, Blumenauer, Pierluisi, Slaughter and Rigell that would enable more cities to compete for existing funds rather than subjecting the resources to an arbitrary 10-city cap.
“The arbitrary exclusion of some smaller but distinctive regions from the Urban Area Security Program despite demonstrated risk factors creates gaping holes in our national security,” said Higgins. “We are simply asking to keep the door open and allow regions to qualify based on substantiated security need through a fair application process.”
If the amendment fails to pass, the following cities/urban areas would be excluded from applying for Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) Program funding in FY12: Phoenix, Anaheim/Santa Ana, Riverside, Denver, Miami Dade/Fort Lauderdale/Palm Beach, Orlando, Tampa, Atlanta, Baltimore, Detroit, Twin Cities, St. Louis, Las Vegas, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Portland, Pittsburgh, Norfolk, Seattle, Tucson, Bakersfield, Oxnard, Sacramento, Bridgeport, Hartford, Jacksonville, Honolulu, Indianapolis, Louisville, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Kansas City, Omaha, Albany, Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester, Columbus, Toledo, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, San Juan, Providence, Memphis, Nashville, Austin, El Paso, San Antonio, Salt Lake City, Richmond, Milwaukee.
The UASI program, administered by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), focuses on enhancing regional preparedness in targeted areas through collaboration that fosters integrated emergency prevention, protection, response and recovery.
For FY2010, 64 urban areas including the Buffalo-Niagara region, were eligible under the program. As a result of $162 million in cuts included in the FY2011 Continuing Budget Resolution, rather than reducing allocation amounts, a decision was made to reduce eligible communities to 31 urban areas, eliminating all four New York upstate regions that previously qualified. The FY2012 Homeland Security Appropriations bill further cuts the program to just 10 urban areas.
Congressman Higgins has argued that the Western New York region has unique features beyond population which should factor into security need including: four international bridge crossings; the Niagara Power Project which serves as the largest electricity producer in New York State; and the homegrown al-Qaeda terrorist cell, the Lackawanna Six. It also sits along two Great Lakes which represent the largest fresh water supply in the world and serves as the center point of a 500 mile radius that includes approximately 55% of the US population and 62% of the Canadian population.
The legislation is currently under debate in the House of Representatives. Congressman Higgins will speak on the floor in opposition to the UASI provision that makes more than 50 U.S. cities ineligible for funds, regardless of threat and vulnerability levels.