King Opening Statement at DHS Preparedness Grants Hearing

WASHINGTON – Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.), Emergency Preparedness, Response and Recovery Subcommittee ranking member, today delivered the following opening statement at a subcommittee hearing entitled, “Understanding the Importance of DHS Preparedness Grants:  Perspectives from the Field.”

I want to thank Chairman Payne for holding today’s hearing to discuss critical preparedness grant programs. This hearing is especially timely considering the Department of Homeland Security’s recently released National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) Bulletin highlighting concerns of potential retaliation actions from Iran or its terrorist partner, Hezbollah. While we’re not aware of a specific threat to the United States, violent extremist organizations have the intent and capability to conduct attacks in the homeland with little or no warning. It is imperative that capabilities are in place to thwart any potential attack. 

FEMA’s preparedness grants provide state, local, tribal, and territorial governments the ability to build, sustain, and improve capabilities to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards, including terrorism threats.

Federal funds through vital grant programs such as the State Homeland Security Grant Program, Urban Area Security Initiative, Port Security Grant Program, and Transit Security Grant Program enable local communities to support their first responder workforce and to harden their defenses against potential attacks.

From 9/11 to the Boston Marathon bombing and the San Bernardino killings, we continue to see terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. And as evidenced by the 2016 Chelsea bombing, the 2017 vehicle ramming in lower Manhattan, and the subsequent 2017 Port Authority bombing, the New York City urban area remains our nation’s top terror target.

Federal grant funding has enabled the NYPD, FDNY and the New York City Department of Emergency Management to conduct training and exercises, provide public education and outreach, and develop response protocols, and safety initiatives to significantly increase security measures.

In his statement before the Subcommittee last March, former Chief of NYPD’s Counterterrorism Bureau, Jim Waters, said that federal funding, if eliminated or reduced would result in an erosion of capabilities, cessation of initiatives, and a significant limitation of NYPD’s overall emergency preparedness posture.

The importance of these grants cannot be understated.

Unfortunately, time and again, Presidential budget requests have proposed slashing funding to State and local first responders – regardless of Administration. We must ensure our first responders have the tools they need to get the job done and keep us safe.

I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the importance of FEMA’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program. The Non-Profit Security Grant program provides critical funding to harden security at houses of worship, community centers, schools, and other cultural institutions. The unfortunate reality is that threats to religious institutions and other soft targets are not going away and, in fact, are increasing at an alarming rate. 

There have been a number of attacks both overseas and domestic in places of worship. Most recently in the United States there were synagogue shootings in both Poway, California last year that left one dead and at the Tree of Life Synagogue in 2018 where 11 people were murdered. I have been a longtime supporter of the Non-Profit Security Grant program and was proud to be a cosponsor of Chairman Thompson’s legislation to formally authorize the program.

Preparedness grants that support our states, urban areas, ports, transit systems, and non-profits are crucial to maintaining capabilities, providing training, and purchasing equipment for the overall protection of our communities and way of life. I look forward to hearing from our witnesses on the importance of these grant programs and how they’ve supported and continue to enhance critical safety and security initiatives.

 

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