(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), a champion of port security and border protection, today announced significant funds for America's homeland security priorities in the fiscal year 2008 Omnibus Appropriations bill.
Due to the threat of Presidential vetoes of America’s domestic spending priorities, Congress combined several appropriations bills into one large “Omnibus bill,” which should pass both houses this week. The Omnibus package contains critical funding for national needs like homeland security, transportation, veterans, education, labor and health.
"Every day we turn on the television and hear about new ways in which our nation is vulnerable to outside threats. On of the best ways to remain vigilant is by doing all that we can to prepare ourselves for the worst," Senator Murray said. "Despite tight budgets and veto threats we have been able to fund critical security projects at the Northern Border and at our ports that will make a real difference in making our communities safer."
The bill also includes full funding for the port security grant program, a key part of Murray's landmark SAFE Port Act. The $400 million included in the bill is the full level for the port security grants program authorized in the SAFE Ports Act and is a $190 million increase over the President's request for Fiscal Year 2008.
The bill also includes:
- $60 million to create Coast Guard interagency operations centers, which were created in the SAFE Port Act. These centers will allow the federal government, local, and state authorities to coordinate their efforts on maritime security.
- $13 million to support development of the Secure Freight Initiative, which is a crucial step to build out the GreenLane as envisioned by the SAFE Port Act.
- $29 million for additional Customs agents as called for in the SAFE Port Act to help facilitate Customs trade functions and security reviews.
- $58.8 million for Coast Guard port security inititives enhancements authorized in the SAFE Port Act. Also among these funds is $29.4 million, which provides 238 additional boat crew, boarding team members and marine inspectors as well as 26 Defender Class boats to provide additional port presence and security zone and law enforcement assets in critical ports. The 26 Defender Class boats are built by SAFE Boats in Port Orchard.
- $45 million, which provides for the acquisition of 18 USCG Response Boat/Medium, built in Fremont and Kent by Kvichak Marine.
Port of Tacoma Radiation Detection Center - $5.5 million
The Center, located at the Port of Tacoma and established as part of the SAFE Port Act, will pioneer new technology in cargo radiation screening that will allow trains to be screened for radiological materials.
The bill includes Senator Murray's amendment which requires the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to report back to Congress about where they are placing their agents, analysts, and other personnel. Senator Murray is concerned by reports that show the FBI's increased role in terrorism operations has significantly reduced prosecutions in more traditional areas of the Bureau's law enforcement mission.
NORTHERN BORDER SECURITY
Northern Border Prosecutor Initiative – $2.8 million
The Northern Border Prosecutor Initiative builds off of Sen. Murray’s support of Whatcom County’s “Fast Track” system to create a new program to reimburse northern border communities for some of their law enforcement expenses. The NBPI mirrors a program that has been in existence for the Southwest Border and provides funds through a formula grant.
Northern Border Rapid Prosecution Initiative – $679,150
This funding will help support Whatcom County law enforcement’s “Fast Track” prosecution system to help the county handle cases that result from border-related crime, captured fugitives, drug trafficking, and crimes committed by persons refused entry into Canada. The “Fast Track” prosecution system has reduced the overall time for all cases moving through the Prosecutor’s Office, and has freed up resources to deal with day-to-day local issues.