(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray today released a statement welcoming Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge to Seattle and encouraging him to work with local communities as a full federal partner to protect Washington state and the nation.

“I am pleased to welcome Secretary Ridge back to Washington state. I know he will be impressed by our strong local effort to protect our residents and economy from potential security threats.

Secretary Ridge will meet many dedicated law enforcement agents, first responders and local officials as well as an energetic citizenry ready and willing to do whatever it takes to protect our nation in these uncertain times.

Thanks to coordinated local and federal efforts Washington state has made some important progress in the field of homeland security. While these efforts have been impressive, we still have a long way to go. In order to fulfill our homeland security needs, Washington state needs the federal government to be a committed partner. Unfortunately, in the areas of port security, first responders and border security, this has not been the case.

I am disturbed by the Secretary’s recent comments that our ports and private industries should be held accountable for developing and implementing the security plans that this Administration has mandated. This plan will have tremendous economic impacts on our state. It will encourage cargo diversion to close by Canadian ports, outsource thousands of high-paying port jobs and leave our families and economy just as vulnerable to attack.

I am also concerned by the nickel-and-diming of our first responders. We don’t want our communities to have to choose between preparing for a tornado and preparing for a smallpox attack. We’re asking our emergency responders to prepare for everything and they need more funding to do it. This is not an area where we can afford to cut corners.

The Administration has also claimed to be able to protect our borders with a potential budget shortfall of $1.2 billion. But just a few weeks ago we learned of a hiring freeze at the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection. It is irresponsible and simply unacceptable for the Administration to request inadequate funding for our nation’s security only to find that predicted budget shortfalls exist leaving our communities and citizens without the protection that has been promised. The Northern Border spans over 5,000 miles and Washingtonians know that the consequences of leaving holes in our protection would be devastating.

I am also concerned that Northern Border communities like Whatcom county have found themselves footing the bill for the prosecution of criminals apprehended at the border. This added burden is expected to cost Whatcom County $4 million this year alone. It is time for the government to share this responsibility.

I am pleased that Secretary Ridge has taken the time to visit our state and listen to the concerns of our residents. I look forward to working with him and with this Administration to ensure that our local communities have the resources needed to ensure the security of our state and nation.”