Responders Face "Unacceptable" Delays in Federal Aid, Congressman Says

April 1, 2004
Since the attacks of 9/11, Congress has appropriated $21 billion to train and equip local first responders for the national fight against terrorism. But more than two and a half years later, first responders have still not received most of this money, according to Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is now 1 year old, and in an address at the 2004 Homeland Global Security Summit, Rogers cited the successes and failures of the department he helps oversee as chairman of the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee.

"After 1 year," Rogers commented, "the best description of DHS would be what Casey Stengel once said, 'It's easy to get good players. Getting them to play together that's the problem."

Speaking on March 31 on the first day of the Washington, D.C. event, Rogers' biggest complaint appeared to be the long delays faced by local first responders in receiving grant money from the federal government.

Only 30 percent of the funds appropriated in fiscal year 2002, and 10 percent of 2003 money, has been distributed to local first responder units, according to Rogers. "We've appropriated it to the states, and it gets hung up in the process," he contended. "That is entirely unacceptable."

In order to speed up the process, Rogers said DHS has established a "one-stop shop" where any first responder unit can call and be routed to the right place to obtain assistance. The department has also hired people to travel around the country and help local units apply for grant money.

But despite these efforts to address the problem, "We have a long way to go," Rogers said.

The Congressman argued that overall DHS has made good progress in protecting the nation, especially considering that creation of the department composed of 22 previously separate agencies - represents the largest government reorganization in the nation's history.

"The ability of terrorists to take over an airplane as was done on 9/11 is, I think, tremendously diminished."

He also emphasized the development and deployment of new technologies for homeland security in such areas as:

  • Bio-surveillance;
  • Radiation detection;
  • Container security.

Rogers spent the final half of his talk addressing what he believes is the biggest challenge confronting DHS and the nation in the struggle against terrorism: how to pay for securing "America's massive private infrastructure." Among the issues Congress is grappling with, he said, is how to pay for protecting more than one million miles of natural gas pipeline, 66,000 chemical facilities and 9,351 power plants.

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