By Meredith Mays, Legislative Representative, IACP
n March 13, the U.S. Senate passed homeland security legislation that contains several provisions strongly supported by the IACP. The Improving America’s Security Act of 2007 (S. 4) is the Senate counterpart to U.S. House of Representatives legislation (H.R. 1) designed to implement the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission. The House approved H.R. 1 in early January.
Like the House version, S. 4 proposes implementation of the 9/11 Commission recommendations, but it also proposes several changes designed to assist state, tribal, and local law enforcement in their homeland security efforts.
For example, S. 4 places a greater focus on the prevention of terrorism by mandating that, at a minimum, 25 percent of the combined amount appropriated for the State Homeland Security Grant Program and the Urban Area Security Initiative programs is to be used for law enforcement terrorism prevention activities. Currently, there is no requirement that any of these funds be used for prevention.
IACP supports a broad-based funding approach that will help build U.S. prevention and response capabilities from the ground up. It is vital that a baseline capability be established in all communities, not just urban areas or those determined to be at greatest risk.
S. 4 also proposes the creation of the Office for the Prevention of Terrorism (OPT) in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The OPT director (who is required to have a law enforcement, intelligence, or counterterrorism background) would report directly to the secretary of homeland security and would be responsible for the following:
- Coordinating policy and operations between DHS and state, local, and tribal government agencies relating to prevention of terrorism
- Serving as a liaison between state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies and DHS
- Working with the Office of National Intelligence to develop better methods for the sharing of intelligence with state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies
- Working with the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to ensure that homeland security grants to state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies are adequately focused on terrorism prevention activities
- Coordinating with FEMA, the U.S. Department of Justice, the National Institute for Justice, and state, local, tribal law enforcement agencies to support the development, promulgation, and updating of national voluntary consensus standards for training and personal protective equipment to be used by law enforcement personnel in a tactical environment.
The IACP strongly supports these provisions. IACP President Joseph Carter testified before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs on the critical need for dedicated prevention funding and the importance of establishing the OPT. In his testimony, Carter also said that the creation of the OPT will substantially aid state, tribal, and local law enforcement’s efforts to improve national security and better detect, disrupt, and prevent future acts of terrorism.
In his testimony, Carter outlined how the provisions in S. 4 would help the law enforcement community. “These provisions,” he said, “reflect the reality that while planning, conducting surveillance, or securing the resources necessary to mount their attacks, terrorists often live in our communities, travel on our highways, and shop in our stores.”
The two versions of the bill will go to a conference committee to reconcile the differences, and IACP will continue its efforts to ensure that the needs of state and local law enforcement are addressed in any reform bill that seeks to implement recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.
Byrne-JAG Reauthorization Introduced in Senate
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) has introduced legislation (S. 231) that would authorize the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program (Byrne-JAG) until 2012. IACP President Carter sent a letter to Senator Feinstein thanking her for her efforts.
In that letter, Carter said that the Byrne-JAG Program provides critical funds that help states and units of local government control and prevent drug abuse, crime, and violence and improve the criminal justice system. He also said that, regrettably, in recent years the Byrne-JAG Program has suffered significant funding reductions.
Carter said that this decline in funding is both unfortunate and shortsighted, as this program has consistently demonstrated its ability to provide valuable and critical resources to the state, tribal, and local law enforcement community. By reducing funding for this successful program, Congress and the administration have significantly weakened the ability of law enforcement agencies to combat crime and violence.
As S. 231 is debated in Congress, the IACP will continue to work to ensure that such programs are funded at the highest possible level.
IACP Releases Legislative Agenda for the 110th Congress and Budget Analysis
The IACP has recently released its legislative agenda for the 110th Congress and an analysis of the administration’s fiscal year 2008 budget proposal. These documents, which are available on the IACP Web site at www.theiacp.org, will be sent to every member of Congress.
The IACP Legislative Agenda for the 110th Congress provides a concise overview of the critical issues facing the law enforcement community and contains recommendations for congressional action.
The budget analysis discusses the impact of the proposed budget on state, tribal, and local law enforcement and details the nearly 60 percent proposed cuts in assistance to law enforcement. ■