Kerry Offers Agenda to Support Front Lines in America's War on Terror at Home and Abroad
March 15, 2004
For Immediate Release
Washington DC -
Today in remarks to the International Association of Fire Fighters legislative conference, John Kerry outlined his aggressive agenda to support America's front lines at home and abroad in the War on Terror.
Kerry Offers Agenda to Support Front Lines in America's War on Terror at Home and Abroad Washington, DC - Today in remarks to the International Association of Fire Fighters legislative conference, John Kerry outlined his aggressive agenda to support America's front lines at home and abroad in the War on Terror.
Announcing that his goal is not just victory in November, but the day when every firefighter gets the equipment and support they need - and the respect and honor they've earned, Kerry outlined his comprehensive plan to ensure our first responders are prepared and that our homeland is secure.
"America doesn't need leaders who play politics with 9-11 or see the War on Terror as just another campaign issue. Our nation's safety is too important. If I am President, we will work toward victory in the War on Terror knowing that those on the frontlines of this battle are heroes, not political props. The needs of our first defenders must never be left for last.
"We will reduce the spread of nuclear and biological and chemical weapons and better guard our ports. We will provide frontline defenders with the gear and communications equipments and intelligence they need. We will make sure our public health system is ready for whatever comes its way. And we will enlist the American people and make sure they are part of our efforts to make the land we share safer from those opposed to our democracy and way of life."
Kerry's plan to keep America secure and First Responders prepare includes ensuring there are enough first defenders to do the job - hiring and equipping the nation's fire fighters, restoring funding for the COPS program to keep cops on the street and in our communities, and creating a homeland security corps that would create additional law enforcement officials dedicated to Homeland Security coordination in their communities. Kerry will also assure that first responders have the equipment to do their jobs safely and effectively by funding the backlog of requests for protective gear and cutting the bureaucratic red tape for such requests. He is also committed to improving the communication between first responders, federal and local authorities and the public, and securing our nation's ports.
Kerry contrasted his plans with the Bush Administration's broken promises to first responders, saying that they deserve the tools they need to do the job and promising that a Kerry Administration would deliver.
"You have already done so much - but we have just begun to fight," said Kerry in closing. "Together we will take our message of change - of a strong America - to every corner of America. To all the places and all the people that want leadership that lives by and honors mainstream values. And leadership that makes our people safe and secure. That's not too much to ask for. But right here, right now, together, we are making this pledge: that's what we will deliver."
Since announcing for the White House, John Kerry has pushed for a "campaign of ideas." He has repeatedly outlined a positive vision for change that includes comprehensive plans on the big issues facing America today - like bringing back jobs and restoring economic growth, national security and homeland defense, making health care affordable, fulfilling the promise of educational excellence and opportunity for all. Kerry has invited George Bush to join him in a series of monthly debates on these issues and the future of America.
GEORGE W. BUSH: MAKING OUR HOMELAND SAFER?
Kerry Will Keep Us Secure and Ensure Our First Responders Are Prepared
One year ago, John Kerry addressed the International Association of Firefighters legislative conference and laid out his plan to keep America secure and ensure that our first responders are prepared. Over two years have passed since September 11th but George W. Bush has failed to take the steps necessary to help our communities prepare for and respond to a terrorist attack and has left those on the frontlines of the war against terror without the tools they need. John Kerry has a comprehensive plan to ensure our first responders are prepared and that our homeland is secure.
BUSH ADMINISTRATION FAILED TO GET FUNDS FOR FIRST RESPONDERS TO LOCAL COMMUNITIES. It is not surprising that a President who sends troops to war in Iraq without protective gear so that their families must chip in and buy it for them, is also willing to force first responders to the war in terrorism to respond without the equipment they need.
Funding For First Responders Not Reaching Localities. Federal funding for first responders has been in limbo between the federal government, states, and localities for over two years since September 11th and is just now beginning to reach state agencies.
Bush Wants To Slash Funding for First Responders. George Bush wants to slash funding for First Responder grants by $855 million next year; eliminate all COPS hiring grants; and eliminate the Local Law Enforcement Block Grant. This amounts to over a $1 billion cut in first responder funding, which will mean that local governments will have to choose between laying off police and firefighters; raising local taxes; and cutting other services such as schools and road
BUSH ADMINISTRATION FAILED TO IMPROVE INTELLIGENCE SHARING. Over two years after 9/11 state and local first responder officials are frustrated at the lack of progress by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in sharing meaningful intelligence with them. For example:
The federal government's various terrorist watchlists have not yet been integrated into a single one for easy access by border security officials and law enforcement personnel.
Many local officials have expressed frustration at the level of intelligence which they are provided, noting that they are often in a better position than federal officials to interpret the meaning of some intelligence.
When the most recent Orange Alert was lowered, many officials learned that the alert had been lowered from CNN, not from DHS. And despite news reports that some areas would remain on Orange alert, DHS officials did not acknowledge this or tell the state officials which areas would remain on higher alert.
State and locals don't yet have a streamlined list of targets which would help the local law enforcement identify potential attackers before an event happens.
BUSH ADMINISTRATION FAILED TO SOLVE PROBLEM OF INTEROPERABILITY. Many firefighters died at Ground Zero because the radio systems for the Fire and Police Departments could not communicate with each other, a vulnerability identified both in the 1994 World Trade Center and 1995 Oklahoma City bombings. Achieving interoperability, the ability of different radio systems to talk to another, was a priority goal for DHS and there are still "gaping holes."
BUSH ADMINISTRATION FAILED TO MAKE AIR TRAVEL SECURE
Cargo On Passenger Airlines Remains Unscreened. On average, half of a plane's hull on any passenger flight is filled with cargo, and 22 percent of the nation's air cargo travels on passenger flights. Yet cargo is not subject to the same stringent requirements for screening as is passenger luggage. Most cargo is never screened for explosives and there are no requirements for criminal background checks for cargo handlers.
Eleven Percent of US Airport Screeners Are Being Laid Off at Nation's Airports. Last year the Bush Administration announced that 6,000 airport screeners, 11 percent of the nation's screening force, would be laid off. A Transportation Safety Administration spokesperson claimed that the cuts would not affect overall security, but may add to the wait time for passengers. Paul Hudson, director of the aviation security advocacy group, the Aviation Consumer Action Project, disagreed with TSA's analysis, stating, "These labor cutbacks - unless they're coupled with some other measures to compensate to improve the system further - they will result in an overall reduction in security."
TSA Has Not Finished Background Checks On Half Of Its Screener Force. The Transportation Safety Administration admitted in June 2003 that it still had not completed background checks on 22,000 airport screeners, nearly half of its screener force. In addition, TSA has had to place "scores" of federal air marshal's on leave due to discrepancies in the checks. The president of the Airline Pilots' Security Alliance, Captain Bob Lambert, criticized the TSA, saying, "It raises concerns about the entire TSA vetting process."
BUSH ADMINISTRATION FAILED TO MAKE AMERICA'S PORTS SECURE
Port Security Shows Serious Gaps. Seven million cargo containers arrive in US ports each year, but as little as 2 percent of those are screened. The U.S. has 361 commercial ports.
Pentagon: Even Minor Attack Could Shut Down Nation's Ports for a Month. The Boston Globe reported that a Pentagon simulation in 2003 discovered that even a "minor" attack on a US port could shut down all the ports for a month. Ninety percent of the nations trade flows through the ports, amounting to $750 billion annually. The Globe reported, "a temporary shutdown could cut off everything from heating oil in winter to spare parts for major industries." [Boston Globe, 6/21/03]
BUSH WANTS TO CUT OVERTIME PAY FOR FIRST RESPONDERS. President Bush fought for new rules which will mean less pay for first responders. Police and firefighters will earn less and be paid with comp time instead of cash. This will mean fewer police and firefighters available and less money for those who do work.
KERRY'S PLAN TO KEEP US SECURE & FIRST RESPONDERS PREPARED
ENOUGH FIRST DEFENDERS TO DO THE JOB.
Hiring and Equipping the Nation's Firefighters. John Kerry has proposed the Father Mychal Judge Fund - named after the chaplain of the New York City Fire Department who died delivering last rites on September 11th - to hire up to 100,000 new firefighters and provide the equipment necessary to assure firefighters are prepared.
Kerry will restore funding for the COPS program. The Bush 2005 budget proposal includes only $97 million for COPS (less than one-tenth of full funding), which is less than: Bush has in the bank for his campaign and less than Halliburton overruns in the Mideast ($124 million).
Creating a Homeland Security Corps. John Kerry strongly supports more homeland security training and resources for existing law enforcement officers. His proposed Homeland Security Corps that would give local communities resources to hire 5,000 additional law enforcement officials who are trained in Homeland Security to help coordinate efforts in their communities.
Fighting to Protect Overtime Pay for First Responders. John Kerry believes that first responders who are required to work extra duty should be fairly compensated. George Bush has proposed regulations that would eliminate overtime "rights" for many first responders. John Kerry opposes these regulations and he will repeal them as President if they become law.
ASSURING FIRST RESPONDERS HAVE THE EQUIPMENT TO DO THEIR JOBS SAFELY AND EFFECTIVELY. First responders often do not have the protective gear, interoperable communications equipment, or other emergency response equipment to help react in the critical first hours after an attack.
Funding for the Emergency Preparedness Equipment Backlog. The government should immediately fund the backlog of requests for protective gear, assuring that these resources go directly to first responders rather than trickling through the bureaucracy, and provide them with the communications equipment necessary to respond to an attack in a coordinated manner.
Creating an Orange Alert Fund. When the security threat level is raised, communities have to spend additional resources such as paying police overtime and funding additional security measures. Taken together, it costs several million dollars a day to raise the threat level. John Kerry has proposed to create an "Orange Alert Fund" to reimburse communities for some of the additional costs incurred by responding to a higher threat level.
IMPROVING INFORMATION TO FIRST RESPONDERS AND THE PUBLIC. Kerry will improve communications between federal and local authorities when the terror alert level is raised. Kerry will also ensure that every metropolitan area is prepared to respond to terrorist attacks by developing basic national standards and by creating a strategic regional alert network for smaller municipalities. Sometimes national officials have more targeted information about where a threat exists. When intelligence exists that there is a terrorist threat in certain locations, Kerry will work to ensure that it is shared with local law enforcement and the threat level should be raised in those locations accordingly.
IMPROVING PORT SECURITY. With 95 percent of all non-North American U.S. trade moving by sea, John Kerry believes we can't afford not to take action on port security. He will invest in a system of container security that will track containers and determine whether they contain radioactive or dangerous chemicals. Kerry will also develop security standards for ports and ensure that there are more customs inspectors and better technology to physically search cargo.
Looks like a good plan to improve homeland security, that is if we are attacked Kerry plans on providing the manpower for an attack and all of the needed supplies. Creating an "orange alert fund" for additional assistance, also protecting our ports and airlines.
Kerry will fight for overtime pay for firefighters, I hope they never have a need for overtime pay.
I don't see a pro-active plan to go after terrorists, rather wait until they attack us, maybe I'm missing something here. Since we haven't had an attack on the US since 9/11 (knock on wood), we must have many of these security procedures already in place.
Is this a good plan to be tough on terrorists? I don't know, any comments?