(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a member of the Homeland Security Appropriations Committee, announced that $4.5 million she has included in a critical spending bill for 2010 Winter Olympics security preparations has passed the U.S. House of Representatives and is expected to pass the Senate. The funding will go toward construction of an Olympic Coordination Center in Bellingham, Washington as well as training exercises for first responders.
“The Olympic Games are right around the corner and this is a big step toward ensuring that we are beginning preparations today,” said Senator Murray. “For Whatcom County communities and the millions that will cross our northern border in 2010, we can’t be too safe and we can’t begin preparing too soon. Homeland security officials at the federal, state and local levels have all identified the funding in this bill as critical to protecting Washington state communities and travelers during the 2010 Olympics.”
Congressman Rick Larsen (D-2nd), co-chair of the 2010 Olympics Task Force, also applauded House passage.
“It is critical that our region's security needs are met in time for the 2010 Olympic Games,” said Larsen. “Local, state, and federal leaders must continue to work together as the clock ticks closer to February 12, 2010, when Opening Ceremonies begin. This funding is essential to meet our security needs, and I thank Senator Murray for her leadership to help keep Whatcom County safe for the Olympics and beyond.”
“Lessons learned from numerous high-profile events show that to successfully combine the efforts of large numbers of agencies that operations should be conducted from a single command center with a unified command,” Major General Tim Lowenberg and FBI Special-Agent-in-Charge Laura Laughlin, co-chairs of the 2010 Olympic Security Planning Committee said earlier this summer. “The 2010 Olympics Security Coordination Center will coordinate the security efforts for over 40 federal, state and local agencies on the U.S. side of the U.S. – Canadian border. This facility will provide a strategic response platform to facilitate critical response efforts during the Olympic Games and beyond”.
Details on the projects that will be funded in the bill that passed today:
2010 Olympics Coordination Center - $4 million
This funding would support the operations of a 2010 Olympics Coordination Center at the Customs and Border Protection Air Wing in Bellingham, Washington. This Center would allow federal, state, and local officials to meet, prepare and coordinate a response to any incident from one location. Importantly, the Center would only be twenty-three miles away from the Canadian border, as opposed to the 110 miles to Seattle or the 155 miles to the Washington State Military Department.
2010 Olympics Training and Exercises - $500,000
It is important that emergency officials and first responders know what to do before an emergency occurs. The funding provided by Senator Murray will assist first responders conduct training and exercises and develop the protocols that will be followed in the event of any incident at the Olympic games or at the border.
After passing both houses of Congress this bill, which is included in a larger package of legislation that includes several spending bills, will go to the President to be signed into law.