WASHINGTON, D.C. –
Senators Benjamin L. Cardin and
Barbara A. Mikulski (both D-Md.) today announced the Senate has approved the 2008 Department of Homeland Security spending bill, which includes key funding for Maryland’s security assets. The legislation addresses several high-priority items, including grants for firefighters, first responders, port security and a major project for the Coast Guard Yard at Curtis Bay in Baltimore.- providing no additional funding from last year. – and for years my challenge was fixing the twists and turns in our channels that were a safety risk. Today, it’s threats that were unthinkable years ago. Keeping our ports and our people safe from terrorism is one of my top priorities.”
“This legislation gets us one step closer to keeping our nation safer, standing up for our first responders, and making sure that if terror strikes, measures are in place to protect and save lives,” said Senator Mikulski. “I will keep fighting to make sure there are resources in the federal checkbook for our homeland security.”
“America’s security begins at home and this bill strengthens our ability to protect our neighborhoods, the Port of Baltimore, and our coasts,” said Senator Cardin. “It is an important contribution to the safety of the people of Maryland and the nation.”
The spending bill includes $560 million, an increase of $13 million, in federal funding for our nation’s firefighters through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program (AFGP). This competitive program awards one-year grants directly to local fire departments nationwide. Fire departments can apply for federal assistance for training, equipment, staffing, fire education and awareness programs, or firefighting vehicles. It also includes $140 million, an increase of $25 million, for Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants, also under the AFGP. President Bush’s budget cut federal support for the AFGP nearly in half, requesting only $287 million. It also eliminated funding for SAFER grants for the second year in a row.
“I know these are tight times, but we must do better for our first responders. The federal government has a responsibility to protect our protectors, providing them with the best equipment, training and resources they need to do their job safer and smarter,” said Senator Mikulski. “Helping our firefighters is not a political issue, it is a safety issue. If you are willing to put your life on the line every day, you should never feel short-changed by your government. I am so proud to announce this increase in a federal investment in the safety of our first responders.”
“Our first responders are the linchpin of our nation’s emergency response network,” said Senator Cardin. “Whether a natural disaster, an act of terrorism or a man-made catastrophe, our first responders must have the training and resources they need to get the job done. Our lives may one day depend on it.”
This year, 18,160 departments nationwide applied for funding, requesting more than $2.3 billion. This includes 189 Maryland applicants, who requested nearly $34.7 million. So far this year, Maryland departments have received nearly $11.2 million, making it among the top five states nationwide.
PORT SECURITY GRANTS
The bill also includes increased funding for the Port Security Grant program at $400 million, a $190 million increase from last year. These funds are granted to localities to finance security enhancements at critical national seaports. The President’s budget only requested $210 million
“Ports are high-threat targets for terrorism. We need to make sure the Port of Baltimore and all ports across America are safe, secure and growing,” said Senator Mikulski. “I have been fighting to upgrade the Port of Baltimore for more than 20 years
“We must do more to secure our nation’s ports. The Port of Baltimore is one of the most important economic engines in our state and region. Its close proximity to Washington and its high volume make it a target, and I am pleased that it will receive additional resources to improve security,” said Senator Cardin.
Approximately 11 million containers come into the United States each year, including 19,000 containers daily. The Port of Baltimore, which is the 14th largest port for foreign cargo, currently has to compete with 16 other ports for a share of a tiny $40.2 million pot for federal grants. Having recently celebrated its 300th anniversary, the Port of Baltimore is an economic engine for Maryland and America, supporting more than 42,000 maritime-related jobs in Maryland and almost 20,000 direct jobs.
COAST GUARD YARD
This year’s spending bill also includes $75 million for maintenance and repair projects at the Coast Guard Yard at Curtis Bay. This will extend the service life and increase mission performance for the Coast Guard’s aging fleet of boats. The bill also includes language that recognizes the Yard as a critical component of the Coast Guard’s core logistics capability that directly supports fleet readiness.
“For 108 years, the Yard at Curtis Bay has built, repaired and renovated ships that are critical to the Coast Guard’s core missions. They’ve done it on-time, under budget and at a competitive rate, said Senator Mikulski. “I want to ensure that we have the world’s best-equipped Coast Guard. That’s why I have continued to fight for the Coast Guard Yard.”
“I am pleased that the bill recognizes the key role that the Coast Guard Yard at Curtis Bay has played for more than 100 years in ensuring the Coast Guard’s core logistical capabilities. This bill recognizes the important contribution of the Yard and recommends that its continued use for maintenance and repair,” said Senator Cardin.
Senator Mikulski is a member of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee. Senator Cardin is a member of the Budget Committee.
In the next step of the legislative process, the House and Senate will meet in Conference Committee to work out the differences between the two versions of the bill. The Conference report will then be voted on by both Houses of Congress. Once passed by the House and Senate, the spending bill will go to the President for his signature.