Washington, DC –U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) announced today that a restoration of $100 million in funding for securing the nation’s transportation systems and ports has cleared a key senate panel. The U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Homeland Security approved $350 million for transit security and $350 million for port security in the FY2011 Homeland Security Appropriations bill, an increase from the $300 million allocated to each program last fiscal year. The subcommittee also approved $20 million to maintain funding for the Securing the Cities program, funding which was facing elimination, that provides resources to protect the New York metropolitan area against the threat of a radiological or nuclear attack.
Last fiscal year, anti-terror funding for each of these programs was cut by nearly $100 million from the previous year’s funding level of $400 million per program. In a letter sent to the Senate Appropriations Committee earlier this month, Senator Gillibrand, Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) and several of their colleagues requested funding be restored to fiscal year 2009 levels of $400 million for transportation security funding and $400 million for port security funding.
“After the Times Square bomb attempt, we must redouble our efforts to keep Americans safe. We must always remain vigilant in guarding against terrorist attacks and ensure that law enforcement at every level is armed with the resources they need to protect New York and our nation,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Adequate homeland security funding to secure our transit systems and ports and prevent a radiological attack is essential to combat terror attacks. I am pleased that the Homeland Security Subcommittee has recognized the urgency of funding these programs.”
Anti-terror funding under the Public Transportation Security Assistance Act mainly goes toward the Transportation Security Grant Program, which would provide security for New York City’s two thousand bridges, five million subway riders, tunnels and other key infrastructure. The Port Security Grant program would help protect New York’s port infrastructure, cargo and passenger terminals, improve risk-management capabilities and increase training.
Senator Gillibrand has also strongly advocated to preserve funding for the Securing the Cities program, which has been targeted for elimination. Gillibrand introduced legislation to maintain long-term funding and successfully pushed to avert the program’s elimination last year. Securing the Cities is the nation’s only program designed to address the threat of a dirty bomb attack – which combines radioactive materials with conventional explosives to disperse radioactive material over a large area – an act of terrorism considered among the most dangerous threats to global security.
This federal funding is critical in keeping New York and the nation safe. In New York City, there have been at least nine planned terror attacks since the September 11th attacks, including the recent Times Square bomb plot scare.
Senator Gillibrand and Senator Casey’s letter to Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HA) and Ranking Member Thad Cochran (R-MS) was also signed by Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and Roland Burris (D-IL).
Full text of the letter is below.
Dear Chairman Inouye and Ranking Member Cochran,
We are writing to bring to your attention the urgent need to adequately fund our nation’s transit and port security grant programs. Over the past two Fiscal Years, funding for these programs has been significantly cut, which has in turn lowered the amount of funding available for grants to our respective states. Therefore, we request that you include $400 million for Public Transportation Security Assistance and Railroad Security Assistance, and $400 million for Port Security Grants in the FY2011 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill.
These grants are critical to ensuring that law enforcement in states at high risk of being attacked have the resources that are needed to keep transportation infrastructure safe from the threat of a terrorist attack. We know that transportation systems are often an attractive target for potential terrorists because of the ability to inflict mass casualties and cause major infrastructure damage. We also know that several foiled terrorist plots against major American cities since September 11, 2001 have involved threats against surface transportation. In the last decade, terrorists have successfully attacked the London Underground and the commuter railways of Spain and Russia. We cannot allow that to happen in the United States.
In FY2009, the baseline budgets for the Transit and Port Security grant programs were nearly equal to the funding received in FY2008 of $350 million. Understanding the importance of these programs, Congress sought to ensure that our rail and freight lines as well as our ports continued to upgrade security by adding an additional $150 million to each of these programs through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Nevertheless, last year, the Transit Security Grant Program’s funding decreased by 49.1 percent to $253.4 million and the Port Security Grant Program decreased 46.5 percent to $288 million.
These grants are used for training personnel who protect subways, bridges, and other transportation infrastructure, for public awareness efforts to help citizens to be vigilant against the threats of terrorism, as well as for physically protecting the infrastructure and assets of public transit systems – all crucial components to hardening transit systems against terrorist threats.
The recent attempted attacks on major U.S. cities only solidify the fact that terrorist attacks remain a real threat and this is simply not the time to be cutting funds that help the high-risk states and metropolitan areas protect against terrorism. We look forward to continuing to work with you to address the ongoing needs of homeland security officials in our states.
Thank you for your leadership, and we urge your committee to restore this vital funding.