(202) 225 - 3130
WASHINGTON, DC - House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor this afternoon in support of the Homeland Security Authorization Act. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
"Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, Congressman Thompson, for all of his hard work on very this important authorization bill.
"The highest duty of our government is to protect the American people, to secure our homeland and to defend our national security. Unfortunately, since the horrific terrorist attacks on our nation on September 11th opened our eyes and exposed our vulnerabilities, we have not done enough to protect our homeland.
"As Tom Kean, the former Republican governor of New Jersey and co-chair of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission, stated last August: "We're not protecting our own people in this country. The government is not doing its job."
"Yesterday's arrest of six men who apparently were plotting to attack and kill soldiers at Fort Dix in New Jersey is a stark reminder that we cannot let down our guard; that we must remain vigilant.
"This legislation, which I believe will receive strong bipartisan support, is a critical step in the right direction. Among other things, this bill authorizes $39.8 billion for the Department of Homeland Security for Fiscal Year 2008 - which is $2.1 more than President Bush requested.
"It restores the President's 52 percent cut to the State Homeland Security Grant Program, which helps first responders to prevent, prepare for and respond to an act of terrorism. It restores the President's 55 percent cut in firefighter assistance grants; restores the elimination of the Local Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program; and restores the elimination of the SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) Program.
"Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, this legislation contains strong accountability measures aimed at strengthening and streamlining management of the Department of Homeland Security - which has struggled with mismanagement. And, it includes provisions to improve information sharing, to enhance bio-terrorism preparedness, and to eliminate the Department's authority to establish its own personnel management system
"Mr. Speaker, ever since the Department of Homeland Security was created in 2003, I have been concerned about the efficacy of consolidating 22 agencies and 170,000 people into one department. However, since the Congress chose to create this new Department, it is now our duty to ensure that it has the resources it needs to do its job as effectively as possible, and to ensure that the Department is well managed.
"This legislation - by focusing on oversight and management - is a critical response to the issues and problems that have been encountered at the Department since its creation. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this bill."