These are frightening times. We face possible future terrorist attacks, a war in Iraq and a War on Terrorism. On the home front, our number one priority must be homeland security and making sure that our states and localities have the resources they need to respond to any possible terrorist attack.
I was recently appointed to the Homeland Security Committee and I have met with our local public officials to discuss homeland security and a coordinated regional response to any possible attacks.
There is little doubt that our proximity to Washington, D.C. heightens our threat risk. It also means that our first responders—firemen and police officers—may be called on to respond to any incident in the Washington-Baltimore-Annapolis region.
That’s why it’s important that local and state jurisdictions get the funds they need to develop a coordinated homeland security plan. Funds for training and equipment are critical to local and state planning efforts. Last year, Congress appropriated $1.5 billion to states for improved homeland security needs.
Currently, a majority of homeland security funding is based on a population formula for every state. That means Maryland gets approximately the same funds, per capita, for training and preparedness as North Dakota. While it’s important to have a baseline for funding, it’s also critical that threat assessment is included in any funding formula.
According to the Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), Maryland has approximately 20,000 personnel—fire and police and health care workers—in need of training to cope with any possible terrorist attack. However, the Terrorism Consequence Management Program was totally eliminated after the FY2002 budget. Future funding is still uncertain.
According to MEMA, Maryland has received some $5.7 million for needed equipment for fire and police departments, much of that to improve communications. Our state is home to a number of sensitive facilities. From the Port of Baltimore to NSA, from Ft. Meade to Camp David and the 1-95 corridor, we need the appropriate resources to deal with any possible terrorist attack.
Since Sept. 11, Baltimore City has spent approximately $11 million on homeland security. Recently, Baltimore City requested $35 million for equipment and training to upgrade anti-terrorism plans. While we are better prepared than we were before Sept. 11, we need to do more.
Homeland security is critical to the defense of our nation. We would not depend on local governments to fund our military, and we should not have to depend on local governments to fund homeland security, which is about the safety of every American. It needs to be a top priority for the federal government.