News Releases

Murray Secures $5 Million to Help Northern Border Communities Coordinate With New Air Wing

Sep 13 2004

Senator Also Fights to Include More than $300 Million in Additional Funding for Washington state Priorities

Senator's Provision Will Boost Funding for Firefighters, Local Emergency Managers, Additional Northern Border Air Wings

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - Senator Patty Murray today announced that the U.S. Senate has agreed to set aside $5 million for test of communication equipment that will help local law enforcement officials work with Bellingham's new Northern Border Air Wing. The funding, which Murray pledged to work for when she joined the dedication of the Air Wing last month, is contained within the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations bill.

"Our officers need this equipment, and they need it now. Otherwise, all along the Northern Border, our eyes in the sky will be able to see potential threats, but they won't be able to effectively communicate with the local law enforcement on the ground," Murray said.

Although the Air Wing is now up and running, officials will not be able to effectively communicate with local law enforcement on the ground because their new equipment is digital while most local law enforcement equipment is analog. According to Air Wing leadership, as well as the agents at the branch opening last month, the biggest operational obstacle they have is communications with the local law enforcement personnel.

For the most part, local law enforcement uses legacy analog radios but the Air Wing will be using digital devices – creating a situation where the Air Wing radios can talk to the locals, the locals can’t talk back.

"They have the ability to track and intercept aircraft but they need the people on the ground to have real time communications capabilities," Murray said. "This funding will help local law enforcement coordinate with Customs agents to stop criminals attempting to cross into our state."

In addition to the money for Bellingham communications equipment, Murray worked with Sen. Max Baucus to include $200 million to get four additional Northern Border Air Wings up and running seven days a week, 16 hours per day in 2005 instead of 2007. The funding will also help the Bellingham Air Wing become fully operational this year. The base in Bellingham will account for as many as 69 jobs at full capacity, officials have said.

The five new Northern Border security bases, designed to help snub out terrorism and illegal smuggling, were authorized following the September 11, 2001 tragedy. The amendment won't add to the national debt and it won't take money away from other Homeland Security programs because it will be paid for by extending customs user fees on products entering the United States.

Extending those fees would generate enough funds to "standup the five bases" and also invest $170 million to boost funding for firefighters and local emergency managers across Washington and the country, as well as helping other Northern Border Air Wings to become operational 2 years earlier than planned.

Murray also worked with her colleagues to broker a deal with Senate leadership to include an additional $170 million in the amendment to bolster other security efforts.

That funding will:

  • High Risk Non-profits: $50 million for security enhancements and training at high-risk non-profit organizations. Terrorist attacks on these institutions would disrupt health, social, community, educational, and other services they provide to the American people.

  • Fire Grants: $50 million for personnel, fire house and fire fighting costs.

  • Federal Air Marshall: $50 million to help pay for the training and personnel costs of the program.

  • Emergency Management Performance Grant (EMPG): $20 million to help pay for all hazard planning, training, exercises, interagency coordination, education, public outreach and other necessities to help respond and recover from all emergencies and disasters throughout the state.

The Senate is expected to pass the Homeland Security spending bill by Wednesday, Murray said.