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Reps. Demings and Bacon Introduce Bipartisan Anti-Terrorism Legislation

October 21, 2021
Press Release
The Homeland Security Capabilities Preservation Act would expand funding to urban areas previously designated as potential targets.

ORLANDO, FL – Today Rep. Val Demings (D-FL-10) and Rep. Don Bacon, (R-NE-02) introduced the Homeland Security Capabilities Preservation Act. This bipartisan legislation would direct the Department of Homeland Security to review past disbursements under the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI), then to create a plan to continue federal anti-terrorism support for UASI-funded homeland security capabilities that keep people safe in these communities. Rep. Bacon is a former United States Air Force Brigadier General and Wing Commander. Rep. Demings is a former 27-year law enforcement officer and Orlando, Florida Chief of Police. BILL TEXT // FACT SHEET

Said Rep. Demings, “The safety and security of every person who lives, works, and travels in Florida is my top priority. Our previous experience in Orlando showed that critical public safety funding can be inconsistent, leaving important programs without necessary support. This new legislation would provide much-needed stability and peace of mind to emergency planners across Florida, who will rest easier knowing that when they begin a new initiative to keep Floridians safe, they will be able to sustain those efforts.

“The UASI program has been one of my top priorities since arriving in Congress and I am proud of the work we have done to restore Orlando to the list and ensure that we can prevent violence – or at least be ready to save lives when the worst should happen. As a former law enforcement officer, I have seen firsthand how important these federal dollars are, and I will continue working to ensure that every Florida community has what’s needed to keep every Floridian safe.”

Sad Rep. Bacon, “Keeping Americans safe from all threats, both foreign and domestic, is a top priority of mine. I’m glad to help lead this effort alongside Rep. Demings to direct DHS and FEMA to assess UASI capabilities and ensure federal assistance is made available for these anti-terrorism law enforcement programs, especially in urban areas, which are potential targets for terrorist attacks. In fact, Omaha had not received UASI funds since FY2010, leaving our community more vulnerable and unprotected. As a retired Brigadier General and Air Force veteran, I believe that if another terrorist attack like 9/11, a natural disaster, or worldwide pandemic occurs, our first responders, non-profits, and other public safety personnel must be equipped to protect our citizens and preserve our communities.”

Said Patrick Yoes, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police, “This important program assists high-threat, high-density urban areas in efforts to build and sustain the capabilities necessary to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from acts of terrorism…By directing DHS to submit a plan on how to make Federal assistance available to former UASI jurisdictions, which your legislation does, will undoubtedly save lives and prevent future acts of terrorism. On behalf of the more than 364,000 members of the Fraternal Order of Police, I am proud to offer our support for this legislation.”

Said Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian, President of the Major County Sheriffs of America, “Major County Sheriffs of America is proud to support the Homeland Security Capabilities Preservation Act. Protecting our communities is a fundamental responsibility shared among local, state, federal, and tribal governments and the private sector. The FEMA preparedness grant programs, including the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI), are cornerstones of the DHS mission to help build capacity among those partners. Our citizens and our partners cannot afford for us to develop preparedness and prevention capabilities and then let them wither for lack of resources. This legislation will help ensure sustainment of critical capabilities and enable DHS to further its capacity building mission in partnership with Sheriffs and other stakeholders around the country.”

Said Mike Sena, President of the National Fusion Center Association, “The National Fusion Center Association thanks Representatives Val Demings and Don Bacon for introducing this important piece of legislation. The resources in this bill will help our members maintain strategic initiatives and tactical capabilities that prevent and respond to critical public safety threats. We are grateful to have partners in Congress who share our mission to keep communities safe and protect America.”

Background

The Homeland Security Capabilities Preservation Act is endorsed by the Major Cities Chiefs Association, National Association of Counties, National League of Cities, The United States Conference of Mayors, The National Fusion Center Association, Major County Sheriffs Association, and the Fraternal Order of Police.

After 9/11, the newly-formed Department of Homeland Security began to distribute funding to urban areas under the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) grant program with the goal of enhancing “regional preparedness and capabilities in designated high-threat, high-density areas.”

Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolon explained, in testimony before the Committee, that for local law enforcement who are on the “front lines of responding to any emergency, whether it be a terrorist attack, natural disaster, or global pandemic, FEMA preparedness grants are critical resources that bolster law enforcement’s ability to prevent and respond to terrorist attacks and other associated threats.”

The Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) provides funding to help with terror-prevention planning, organization, equipment, training, and exercises in urban areas which could be targeted. Orlando received $3.8 million in 2021, $3.5 million in 2020, $3.25 million in 2019, and $1.5 million in 2018. Prior to this, Orlando was excluded from the program starting in 2014. Other UASI allocations in Florida this year included $14.75 million for Miami/Fort Lauderdale and $3.8 million for Tampa.

Rep. Demings is the Chair of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Recovery, which oversees the UASI program. She previously fought to have Orlando restored to the program. As Orlando’s former Chief of Police, Rep. Demings oversaw the use of UASI funding by the Orlando Police Department.

Law enforcement agencies in 31 cities around the nation—including Orlando, Tampa and Miami—received a total of $615 million in UASI funding this year. They can use this funding to buy homeland security equipment, conduct training exercises, train and pay first responders, and enhance security in order to protect high-profile locations like stadiums, public transit, and theme parks. Florida also received $9,701,894 through the State Homeland Security Program.

In addition, because Orlando is again receiving UASI funding, non-profit organizations in the city are eligible for Nonprofit Security Grants from DHS. Previously, five faith-based non-profit organizations in Orlando applied for, and received, a total of $480,000.

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