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Higgins Leads Effort to Restore Federal Security Funding to WNY | Crime

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Higgins Leads Effort to Restore Federal Security Funding to WNY
Crime, News, Politics
Higgins Leads Effort to Restore Federal Security Funding to WNY

Congressman Fights to Keep Millions for Buffalo Border Community and Other High-Risk Locations

Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27), a member of the House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security, is leading an effort to restore Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) funding to the Buffalo area and similarly sized regions across the state and nation.  A bipartisan group of twenty-three Representatives have signed on to Congressman Higgins letter opposing an amendment, passed by the House, which would reduce UASI eligible cities from 64 high-risk urban areas to only 25.

“While smaller in population, Buffalo and other cities with unique risk features have been identified as high-threat areas and together with my colleagues we are fighting to make sure public safety is not abandoned in our communities,” said Congressman Higgins, who serves on the Border and Maritime Security and Counterterrorism and Intelligence subcommittees.

The UASI program, administered by the Department of Homeland Security, focuses on enhancing regional preparedness in targeted areas through collaboration that fosters integrated emergency prevention, protection, response, and recovery.  Each year eligible urban areas must re-apply for the federal funds distributed through this program.

Congressman Higgins’ district includes the Buffalo Urban Area, often referred to as BEN since it encompasses the city of Buffalo, and Counties of Erie and Niagara, which previously qualified for federal UASI funds.  Over the last 8 years the Buffalo region received over $53 million through the program including over $5.5 million in 2010.

UASI enhances the capacity to respond to all-hazard events.  The most tragic and illustrative of the importance of this collaborative region–wide partnership was the crash of Flight 3407.  The Buffalo Erie Niagara UASI incident Management Team also effectively responded to the 2009 Gowanda floods and the 2006 October Storm, declared a federal disaster.

The Western New York region, an international border community, is home to three 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 U.S. population and 62% of the Canadian population.

Below is the text of the letter issued by Congressman Higgins and twenty-three of his colleagues:

Dear Chairman Inouye, Ranking Member Cochran, Chairman Rogers and Ranking Member Dicks:

We write to express our strong support for the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) program and our opposition to an amendment that was adopted during House consideration of the Fiscal Year 2011 Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act that would restrict the eligibility for the UASI program from 64 high risk urban areas to 25 high risk urban areas.  We urge you to remove the language from the final FY 2011 appropriations package.

As you know, the UASI program plays an important role in the ability of state and local agencies, authorities, first responders and law enforcement to regionally prepare for and coordinate efforts against homeland security threats.  Specifically, the UASI program provides financial assistance to ensure that high-threat, high-density urban areas have the capability to prevent, protect, respond and recover from homeland security threats. 

While we understand that cities in Tier 1 face the highest risk of a terrorist attack, the threat and risk to our communities are real as well.  Our cities are not invulnerable to terrorist attacks or disasters.  As you know, the Secretary of Homeland Security assesses and evaluates the relative risk of terrorism faced by the 100 most populous metropolitan statistical areas in the United States to determine which cities are in need of UASI funds to prepare and respond to homeland security threats.  The risk analysis looks at what the potential threat is, what the vulnerability is, and what the consequences are if attacked. 

The communities we represent contain numerous assets, resources and critical infrastructure that are vulnerable to attack and that are tremendously important to the nation.  Our first responders are right to hold training exercises and coordinate response scenarios.  This valuable preparedness comes at a cost, and at a time when state and local budgets are being slashed, now is not the time to eliminate the eligibility of our threatened urban areas from UASI funding.  We cannot lay the entire financial burden of securing our cities on local authorities, first responders, law enforcement and agencies and expect to adequately protect our citizens and make our cities safe. 

Please remove this harmful UASI language from the final FY2011 appropriations package and ensure our cities have the necessary capabilities to safeguard our communities.

Thank you for your consideration of this important national security matter.



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