Recent Speeches

Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Mr. President, I rise today to offer an amendment which ensures that critical homeland security resources are allocated predominantly on the basis of risk, threat, and vulnerability.

I am pleased to be joined by my colleague from Texas, Senator John Cornyn, as well as Senators Lautenberg, Hutchison, Boxer, Schumer, Clinton, Obama, Menendez, Kerry, Coburn, and Casey. I understand that Senator Coburn and at least three of the other cosponsors will be coming to the floor, and I certainly welcome them.

Our amendment provides an alternative that is consistent with the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.

Let me refresh the Members' view of the 9/11 Commission. This is the recommendation:

Homeland security assistance should be based strictly on an assessment of risks and vulnerabilities.


Federal homeland security assistance should not remain a program for general revenue sharing.

Now, I know that is difficult for smaller States, but I also know this is a bill that is aimed to comply with the recommendations of this Commission. So I hope it will be given some attention.

The amendment we are offering today would allocate homeland security grant funds based on risk and threat analysis. This covers most grants for interoperable communications, seaport and airport security, as well as the State Homeland Security Grant Program, the Law Enforcement Terrorist Prevention Program, the Urban Area Security Initiative, and the Citizen Corps Program. We accomplish this by reducing the State minimum formula. Currently, each State receives .75 percent of the State terrorism preparedness grant money appropriated to the Department of Homeland Security.

Now, what does this mean? This means that nearly 40 percent of the grant funds must be allocated regardless of risk analysis. This amendment will reduce that State minimum to .25 percent; in other words, from .75 to .25. Lowering this minimum ensures that only 12.5 percent of the grant funds are set aside for all States, regardless. Even if they have no threat, they can get that amount of money.

Also, 87.5 percent would be allocated based purely on risk and threat assessment. This would give the Department of Homeland Security the flexibility necessary to put money where it is most needed. This means that more dollars will go to the places that face serious threats and where dollars can do the most good and, as I say, it is consistent with the 9/11 Commission.

So what does that mean in real dollar terms? Last year roughly $912 million in grant funds were distributed to homeland security-related planning, equipment, training, and law enforcement support needs related to terrorism prevention. It broke down like this: Only 60 percent of the money, or $547 million, was allocated based on risk. Forty percent, or $365 million, went to satisfy the guaranteed minimum for all States--exactly what the 9/11 Commission said we should not do.

If the Feinstein-Cornyn amendment were in place, an additional $426 million would have been distributed strictly on risk, threat, and vulnerability. That would have brought the total to $791 million--nearly 90 percent of the funds. I believe this would have been the right thing to do. Instead, the places where the most funding is required are being shortchanged. Let me give my colleagues an example.

Last year the breakdown of funds distributed through the State Homeland Security Grant Program and the Law Enforcement Terrorist Prevention Program meant that some States with relatively low risk were receiving more funds per person than States with higher risk. We have all heard this.

Now my State, California's share of this grant funding amounted to $2.50 per person. Texas, another large State, received $2.25 per person. Yet Wyoming received $14.75 per person. California is the most populous State in the Union. We have about 37 million residents. We have the Nation's largest ports, iconic bridges, towering skyscrapers, enormous infrastructure, and the busiest border crossing in the world. Texas, with 23.5 million residents, has great cities, towering skyscrapers, vital industries, and a vast international border. Wyoming -- I don't want to pick on Wyoming. Love it. But as a State it is like a national park. Wyoming, with 515,000 residents, is a largely rural State.

As a member of the Intelligence Committee, I pay close attention to the classified intelligence on terrorist threats. Regrettably, for those living in States with higher threat profiles, there is reason for concern. Major cities such as Los Angeles have been an elusive al-Qaida target for years. A public example outlining the severity of this post-9/11 threat was acknowledged by President Bush in his State of the Union Address earlier this year. The President said:

We stopped an al-Qaida plot to fly a hijacked airplane into the tallest building on the West Coast.

This is the tallest building on the west coast. It is the Library Tower Building--it has a new name now--the old Library Tower Building in Los Angeles, the tallest office building west of the Mississippi. It is home to more than 3,000 people during a typical workday.

Al-Qaida and its allies do not attack based on an obscure formula to spend money evenly. They attack by prominence, number of people they can kill, and the psychological value of taking out America's great landmarks. Homeland security money must correlate with this threat and risk; otherwise, it is quite simply wasted. This is the reality of the world in which we live. We can never predict when or where the next major attack may occur, but we can apply tough-minded discipline to use our finite financial resources effectively.

Allocating our critical resources effectively is built on a three-pronged approach: One, risks of potential terrorist attacks must be accurately assessed; two, the vulnerability of critical infrastructure and potential targets must be measured; and, three, resources must be distributed based on these assessments.

The Department of Homeland Security was created to accomplish these goals. This amendment provides the flexibility and resources for the professionals to do so.

Let me make no secret. I would prefer to allocate 100 percent of homeland security grants based on risk and threat and believe that eliminating mandatory outlays to States is good public policy. It is safe public policy. But I understand the realities of the Senate. So this amendment is a compromise which makes us all safer and benefits in some way all 50 States.

There are some who say that small States would be put at a disadvantage by this amendment. This is simply not true. Thirty-five States--70 percent of the Nation--would actually receive increased grant money for terrorism preparedness under this amendment. States as diverse as Connecticut, South Carolina, and Colorado will benefit. Risk-based funding will bring more Federal dollars to smaller States with high-threat profiles.

Here are 35 States that benefit from risk-based appropriations, and you can see them on the chart. They are in the green: California, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, North Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Iowa, Missouri, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland.

This bill does not impact the primary all-hazards grant programs, such as the emergency management performance grants and the Assistance to Firefighters Program. In fact, under current law, nearly 40 percent of these funds are set aside for small State all-hazards preparedness. This adds up to at least $7 million per State based upon the authorization for emergency management performance grants in the underlying bill.

There are those who will also make the argument that recipients of homeland security grant funds are not held accountable, as money is often wasted. Our amendment increases the efficiency of Federal dollars by ensuring that these critical funds actually go toward programs and efforts that prevent acts of terror. It requires entities receiving these funds to undergo periodic audits conducted by the Department, and it mandates that the appropriate performance standards are met.

Finally, the amendment ensures that States quickly distribute Federal dollars to localities where they are needed and not hold them back. Four years ago, the President signed Homeland Security Presidential Directive 8, requiring the Department of Homeland Security to allocate grant money "based on national priorities.'' Four years later, despite this Presidential directive, this remains unmet, an elusive target.

The 9/11 Commission report makes clear that there are imbalances. It offers sensible advice. We should take that advice. In our amendment, we have tried to do that. Among the Commission's observations and conclusions, "Homeland security assistance should be based strictly on assessment of risk and vulnerability and, finally, Congress should not use this money as pork barrel.'' I could not agree more. In a free-for-all over money, it is understandable that Representatives will work to protect the interests of their home States or districts. But this issue is too important, they say, for "politics as usual'' to prevail.

Well, I think the 9/11 Commission got it right. The national interests must trump geographical interests when it comes to national security. I thank Senators Lieberman and Collins for their dedication and leadership. I am encouraged that their approach has been modified. I clearly would like to modify it more. That is what this amendment is all about. They have acknowledged that funds should be allocated more along the lines of risk and threat.

Nevertheless, their proposal to set aside 25 percent of funds for all States, I believe, in the world we live in, with the intelligence that crosses my desk, indicates it is too high an amount.

This amendment offers a reasonable alternative that takes a significant step toward improving our Nation's homeland security. So I thank my cosponsors.

Thank you, Mr. President. 

Related Files

  • States would receive additional funding using risk-based approach - riskbasedgrants.pdf (10.5 KBs)