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GOVERNOR SIGNS BILL CREATING HOMELAND SECURITY OFFICE

04-26-2004

Oklahoma?s Office of Homeland Security became official today as Governor Brad Henry signed House Bill 2280. The bill by Rep. Bill Paulk and Sen. Dick Wilkerson created the office which has been operating as a division within the Department of Public Safety for the past year and a half with authority from an executive order by the Governor.

As in many other states, Oklahoma?s Homeland Security efforts began just after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Federal grant money began flowing immediately, leaving states little time to create an agency to handle grant applications and other federal requirements.

?Homeland Security Director Kerry Pettingill and his 4 employees have performed admirably,? said Gov. Henry. ?But it was past time for us to officially outline the duties and responsibilities of this office and make it a stand alone agency rather than a quasi division of the DPS.?

?Oklahoma?s homeland security efforts have been recognized nationally. We are as prepared as any state in the nation, if not better prepared, to respond to any crisis. This important legislation represents an additional step forward in our efforts to ensure the safety of all Oklahomans,? the governor said.

The bill also created eight Regional Advisory Councils whose volunteer members will assess vulnerabilities in their area of the state. These assessments will become part of the OKOHS statewide strategy to prevent terrorist attacks or respond to attacks appropriately should they occur.

?Oklahoman?s have personally felt the effects of terrorism and our staff is working diligently with communities throughout the state to provide them with the resources they need to help protect our state and nation,? said Homeland Security Director Kerry Pettingill. ?We are pleased the Legislature and the Governor made this office a reality and I believe this legislation will assist us in carrying out our mission more effectively.?

Since 2001, Oklahoma has received nearly $63 million in federal grants. Much of that money went toward equipment for first responders. Roughly $15 million will be spent improving the state?s radio system so response agencies can communicate with each other during an emergency.