HOUSE PASSES BILL WITH DEMINGS’ PROVISION TO SUSTAIN FEDERALLY-FUNDED COUNTER-TERRORISM CAPABILITIES
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Val Demings, Florida’s 10th Congressional District, applauded passage of a bill by the U.S. House of Representatives today to formally renew the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and its programs. H.R. 2825, the Department of Homeland Security Authorization Act of 2017, includes a provision that Rep. Demings added during committee consideration of the measure to create a new federal grant program through which Orlando could apply for additional counter-terrorism funding. The new program would permit cities and jurisdictions that previously received grants under the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) program to apply for new funding to sustain counter-terrorism training and equipment. The City of Orlando received funding through UASI in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014, but has not qualified for the funding since.
“Last month, we observed the one-year anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub attack. The preparation that led to our local first responders’ successful response was created through previous grant investments, particularly the Urban Area Security Initiative,” said Congresswoman Val Demings. “Unfortunately, the old UASI funding that is supporting some capabilities in Orlando will soon expire, and despite the Pulse Night Club attack, Orlando is, once again, an unfunded UASI. This legislation would help ensure that Orlando does not lose ground on preparedness. I believe we have no greater purpose than to keep the people that we represent safe from harm.”
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is responsible for securing the nation from threats through prevention, preparedness and response – whether involving aviation, border security, marine safety, cybersecurity or natural disasters. The wide-ranging Department, which is the third largest Federal Executive Department with 240,000 employees, has never been formally authorized since its inception in 2002 following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. H.R. 2825 passed the House Thursday by a vote of 386 to 41. The bill now heads to the United States Senate for consideration.
On June 14, during consideration of H.R. 2825 by the House Committee on Homeland Security, Chairman Michael T. McCaul (TX-10) agreed to incorporate an amendment by Congresswoman Demings to limit eligibility for a new $39 million grant program so that it would only be open to high-risk urban areas that were previously eligible to receive funds from the Urban Area Security Initiative. Twenty-nine cities, including Orlando, received federal UASI funds in past years and would be able to apply for sustainment funding under the new program.
As passed, H.R. 2825 also contains two other provisions authored by Rep. Demings that were previously adopted in committee:
- The legislation would require the Government Accountability Office to perform an independent review of the risk formula and award processes for the UASI program, as well as the State Homeland Security Grant Program. The preparedness of urban areas and the threats they face has changed since the programs were created after the 9/11 attacks, and the report will assess the current process used to collect and evaluate threat information in order to ensure grant funds are provided where they are needed most.
- The bill would authorize funding for the Transportation Security Administration to continue to staff airport security exit lanes with federal Transportation Security Officers. The Fiscal Year 2018 Budget released recently by President Trump proposed removing these officers from exit lanes, a proposal that would shift the cost of securing these areas to state and local law enforcement. With Demings amendment, H.R. 2825 would require TSA to continue its federal obligation to staff airport exit lanes.