(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and U.S. Representative Rick Larsen (WA-2) sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano urging her to follow through on a statement she made in a Senate hearing and personally visit the Olympics Coordination Center in Bellingham this weekend. Napolitano will be in Vancouver, B.C. – just a few short miles to the Coordination Center - this weekend to attend the closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games, but DHS now says that Secretary Napolitano will not be visiting the center. The letter also pointed out the unique national security challenges faced on the Northern Border, as well as the benefits of maintaining the Coordination Center as a resource for federal, state, and local law enforcement.
“As elected officials from Washington state, the issue of security along our Northern Border is of paramount concern,” Murray and Larsen said in the letter. “At a time when we know terrorists are looking for weak links, the Coordination Center has been a successful model for bringing law enforcement agencies together. We urge you to visit the Center this weekend while it is fully operational and maintain its critical security efforts following the close of the Olympic Games.”
The full text of the letter follows:
February 25, 2010
The Honorable Janet A. Napolitano
United States Department of Homeland Security
Washington, D.C. 20528
Dear Secretary Napolitano:
As you know, the most important job we have as leaders is to protect the safety and security of the American people. As elected officials from Washington state, the issue of security along our Northern Border is of paramount concern. That’s why we have consistently worked to draw the attention of the Department of Homeland Security to the need for increased resources, personnel and law enforcement coordination along our state’s border with Canada.
Recently, the eyes of the world have been focused on the Olympic Games in Vancouver, B.C. What the world – and Americans across our country – may not realize, is the tremendous amount of work that has gone on to ensure that the Games and transportation across the U.S.-Canadian border through Washington state have moved forward safely.
We have worked hard to assist our federal, state and local partners by supporting the Olympics Coordination Center, a multi-agency coordination center located in Bellingham, Washington that has coordinated the security efforts of over forty federal, state and local agencies on the U.S.-side of the border. We strongly believe this effort should continue.
We understand that you will be only a few short miles from the border and the Olympics Coordination Center this weekend. On Wednesday, February 24th, in testimony before the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee you stated:
“As you know I was out there earlier on, looking at the Coordination Center as it was getting up and running. I am going to go back out there this weekend. Part of my job there is going to be to talk to people about if this would make sense to do. I have heard great reports, and my mind is very open. I just want to see what we have seen over the past couple of weeks, how it’s been during the fall, and just get a sense from people on the ground about their feelings.”
Secretary Napolitano, we strongly urge you to follow through on this statement and personally visit the Coordination Center this weekend.
Washington state has the third busiest border crossing with Canada, and the security challenges are complex. We know that terrorists have used the Northern Border in the past as an entry point into the United States, and we need to remain vigilant to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. We are confident that the Olympics Coordination Center is a valuable national security resource that should not be abandoned. It will help us meet our homeland security needs in a comprehensive way and the Department of Homeland Security would be well-served to keep it in operation.
At a time when we know terrorists are looking for weak links, the Coordination Center has been a successful model for bringing law enforcement agencies together. We urge you to visit the Center this weekend while it is fully operational and maintain its critical security efforts following the close of the Olympic Games.