After the attacks on September 11th, 2001, Americans learned that our country is vulnerable to attack, and that we must do more to protect and secure our nation. These challenges and responsibilities have demanded strong leadership, and I am proud of the progress we have made toward increasing the security of all Americans.
That is why, several years ago, I introduced the Improving America’s Security Act. This important legislation, which is now law, continues the work of Congress to strengthen homeland security and build upon the 9/11 Commission's recommendations. This law changed homeland security grant formulas to account for short-term populations, such as tourists. For the five years before this legislation was enacted in 2007, the largest homeland security grant programs distributed funds using a formula that arbitrarily sets aside a large portion of funds to be divided equally among the states, regardless of size or need. In addition, this law also increased the amount of funding that can be allocated to states with highest risks, such as Nevada. The new formula will be distributed overwhelmingly based on the risk to an area from a terrorist attack. The funds would be allocated through Urban Area Security Grants, State Homeland Security Grants, Emergency Management Performance Grants, and emergency communications and interoperability grants. Additionally, I secured $22 million for the Nevada National Security Site as part of the National Domestic Preparedness Consortium as a part of the Department of Homeland Security’s 2009 Appropriations.
To bolster our national security against bioterrorist attacks, I facilitated the creation of a National Biosurveillance Integration Center to enhance the federal government’s ability to identify and disseminate warnings of significant biological threats. I have also been a strong supporter of funding for programs to secure and destroy chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union, including passage of the New START treaty, as well as provisions to significantly increase funding for biological weapons counterproliferation programs.
Protecting Our Courthouses
That is why I have led a broad Senate effort to pass comprehensive legislation to enhance our nation’s cyber security and give our government the tools it needs to prevent, deter, and respond to cyber attacks. In 2011, I joined the chairmen of seven key committees in introducing the Cyber Security and American Cyber Competitiveness Act, which lays out a roadmap to improving our nation’s defenses in cyberspace. Recently, in August and November 2012, I brought similar legislation, the Cyber Security Act of 2012, for a vote on the Senate floor. Unfortunately, on both occasions, my Senate colleagues on the other side of the aisle decided to place narrow corporate interests above our nation’s security by rejecting this important legislation. I will continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass comprehensive cyber security legislation in the 113th Congress.
Protecting Our Ports and Borders
I took the initiative in improving border security as the original sponsor of the Improving America’s Security Act. This legislation, which passed in 2007, improved communications capabilities among emergency response providers near border areas, mandated the hiring of hundreds of new Customs and Border Protections officers, and supported the integration of chemical and nuclear detection equipment with border security systems. In 2008, I secured a $3 billion surge in emergency spending to substantially increase the number of Border Patrol Agents; deploy more unmanned aerial vehicles, ground-based radar, and camera towers to help patrol isolated areas of the border; construct roads along the border for the use of Border Patrol vehicles, as well as additional miles of vehicle and pedestrian fencing; end catch-and-release; and achieve and maintain operational control over the international land and maritime borders of the United States. Most recently, in August 2010, I led the passage of a $600 million border security package that allocated funding to hire an additional 1,000 Border Patrol agents, 250 new Customs and Border Protection officers, and 250 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel. Additionally, this legislation funded upgrades for communications equipment used by border security agents, as well as the purchase of additional unmanned drones to curb human trafficking and drug smuggling.
Since I became Majority Leader in 2006, the Senate has passed legislation adding more than 7,000 border patrol agents and increased annual funding for Customs and Border Protection to nearly $12 billion. Thanks in part to these stronger border security and enforcement efforts, the number of immigrants entering our country illegally has decreased by two-thirds, and for the first time in 20 years, there has been a significant decline in the number of immigrants living illegally in our country.
Responding to the needs of first responders, I have helped to deliver federal funding totaling more than $100 million since 2000 to address their priorities. For Example, in southern Nevada, I helped secure funds for a Mobile Command Center to improve officer response and communication in a crisis. In northern Nevada, I funded anti-methamphetamine projects in Carson City. And in rural Nevada, I helped to purchase equipment for nurses to complete sexual assault exams. Most recently, in May 2012, I was pleased to announce that the City of Reno received a $13,707,520 grant which will retain 64 firefighters and fully staff all 14 stations. The funding comes from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and is part of The Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grants (SAFER) program. SAFER provides funding to local fire departments and volunteer firefighter interest organizations to help them increase the number of trained firefighters.
Related Press Releases