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REMARKS BY SECRETARY RIDGE ANNOUNCING FY 04 ODP GRANT ALLOCATIONS
** Remarks as Prepared **
Charleston, West Virginia - A little over two years ago, America was attacked. It was our generation's "Day of Infamy," another "unprovoked, dastardly attack" that ushered in a new World War - the global war against terrorism. Our enemy hides among democratic peoples, plotting to repeat the sneak attack of September 11th -- perhaps, once again, in America. They aim to turn a free people into a fearful people. Who stands in their way? The men and women of Homeland Security, who work throughout this country at all levels of government.
Every day they work to prevent terrorist attacks on American soil, to reduce our vulnerabilities to an attack and to prepare our communities so that we may save lives and mitigate the damage from a future attack. We cannot secure the nation solely from the nation's capital. We need to support those "first preventers" and "first responders" at the state and local level who are our partners in this effort.
Today, we announce a new set of tools - a total of $2.2 billion in grants -- to help them do their jobs efficiently, aggressively and, above all, safely.
First, nearly $1.7 billion in State Homeland Security Grants from the 2004 Federal Budget will be made available to states and then to localities. They will be used for equipment, training and exercises, as well as for statewide planning to ensure the wisest and most practical use of these resources.
West Virginia, for instance, had "panels of excellence" choose new equipment, then the state purchased it in bulk, so that every region knew what to expect and how to train. It's a model that helps prevent both dangerous gaps and wasteful overlaps in protection.
Another half-billion dollars will be awarded in new Law Enforcement Prevention Grants - the key word is "prevention." Law enforcement fought hard for those funds, and so did we. And after the President signed the FY 2004 budget, we got to work right away to discuss how to best spend these dollars so that we can enhance our partnership in preventing terrorism.
These grants can be used to provide interoperable communications - to improve information-sharing -- or to purchase law enforcement equipment, such as SWAT gear, that previously was not covered.
They can also be used to identify critical infrastructure that might be targeted by terrorists, then to "harden" those targets. Louisiana, for example, has performed a vulnerability assessment of 28 critical infrastructure sites and written an operations plan to secure each one. These prevention grants will help Louisiana and other states turn plans into action.
Finally, $40 million is dedicated to the President's Citizen Corps program, which has a strong presence in West Virginia. The funds will be used to educate families about the crucial role they play in preparedness and the many volunteer opportunities available to them. All told, more than $6 billion will have been made available or awarded to states and localities since March 1st, 2003.
We've moved quickly to get that money out the door. We approved 96 percent of the 2003 grant requests within four days -- and required states to obligate funding to cities within 45 days. And state and local officials will find future grants much easier to locate thanks to our new "one-stop shopping" web site - www.dhs.gov/grants. The site provides information on homeland security and public safety grant opportunities throughout the federal government. These include public health preparedness grants under HHS, counter-terrorism grants under DOJ and water-security grants governed by EPA.
Another important feature of the portal is the listing of all federal anti-terrorism related training for our state and local partners, with information on who is eligible and how to enroll. Users can search either by agency or by training type. The new grants are designed to build on our already robust capabilities. Our goal is to identify and meet locally driven needs - driven by statewide plans - in the most flexible and streamlined way possible.
We also asked states to develop regional approaches with strong mutual aid agreements. We urged them to tap the considerable expertise and resources of the private sector and the academic community. And we stressed the immediate safety needs of first responders. If the protectors are not protected, many thousands of lives could be put at risk.
Finally, we will never forget that when the "new normal" began on September 12th, 2001, your "old normal" responsibilities did not disappear. The people, who turned our power back on this summer - who provided aid and comfort after Hurricane Isabel - and who, at this very minute, are battling the worst fires in California history - these brave men and women know what it takes to secure the homeland. More than a few have given their lives in the effort.
They're on the front lines, and need every tool and weapon we can muster to save lives, including their own.
I am proud of the fact that in West Virginia, our 2003 grants helped pay for 50-person mobile hospitals, which were pre-positioned in areas expected to be hard hit by Hurricane Isabel.
And in California, grant money helped pay for some of the secure breathing apparatuses and protective suits worn by those very firefighters.
Gen. George S. Patton, a hero of our last World War, once said, "Wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won by men." The brave men and women of homeland security give their best when faced with the worst. They will be ready - trained, equipped, drilled and prepared - for whatever Mother Nature or man has to offer. And the $2.2 billion we provide today will not only help bring out their best - it may someday prevent the worst from happening again on American soil.
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