2002-04-10 National Governors Association

Testimony – Homeland Security Funding

Mr. Chairman, Senator Stevens, and members of the Committee:

The nation’s Governors appreciate this opportunity to discuss the issue of homeland security. Since September 11, states have responded in every possible way and at great expense without any certainty of reimbursement despite the most significant budget shortfalls of at least a decade-nearly ten percent of state operating funds, or $40 billion overall, with an expectation this will increase to $50 billion this fiscal year.

Governors are grateful for the Administration’s and this committee’s efforts to make support for state and local government homeland security a top priority. The federal government should provide adequate funding, support, and information sharing to ensure that homeland security needs are met. In addition to significant initial federal investment, ensuring homeland security cannot be a one- or two-year effort, but rather requires a more permanent recognition of the vastly changed responsibilities we all confront.

The Office of Homeland Security should have the ultimate authority to coordinate policy and funding levels from which grants to states could be provided for sustained state capacity. A well-developed national strategy and work plan, reflecting the experiences and needs of local, state, and federal policy officials, should guide the development and approval of national programs and policies. Maximum resources must be combined with state and local efforts to achieve a truly effective national capability to prepare and manage the consequences of terrorism.

We want to emphasize how critical it is that federal homeland security funds be funneled through the Governor or a designated state agency. The ability to coordinate through a single agency or office is crucial if we are to address the complexity of directing and coordinating resources towards protecting our citizens.

Before proceeding Mr. Chairman, America’s Governors wish to thank you for your leadership in providing additional funds as part of the Defense Appropriations bill in the fiscal year 2002 budget directly to states to immediately enhance the capacity and preparedness to the state and local public health systems to respond to biological and chemical attacks, and we appreciate the speed with which your committee is moving to consider the President’s supplemental request for homeland security. While each Governor works diligently to address public health threats, they all know that their best response is to develop and maintain a strong public health infrastructure. Governors hope to continue a partnership with you to accomplish this objective.

The September 11th terrorist attacks have moved the issue of terrorism to the top of everyone’s agenda. Dealing with the threat of terrorism is a complex challenge that will not be accomplished overnight; nor will it be inexpensive or easy to accomplish. It has and will require significant costs-human and fiscal-at every level of government. It will also require intergovernmental preparedness and interagency cooperation at all levels of government to prevent loss of life and major property damage.

The Governors are pleased that President Bush selected one of their colleagues to be the Director of Homeland Security. Governor Ridge recognizes and continues to emphasize the need for a comprehensive homeland security strategy that is truly national in scope-a strategy that takes into account the requirements of state and local response entities, but recognizes that the central coordinating role must be at the state level through the Governor’s office. Many Governors have appointed directors of homeland security and task forces to coordinate state activities regarding securing the infrastructure. These individuals have been consulted often by the Office of Homeland Security. More importantly, Governor Ridge met with our Executive Committee last December and with all Governors at their Winter Meeting in February to ensure the greatest possible mutual coordination and cooperation. The Director has been directly accessible to Governors in attempts to find answers to questions such as reimbursement for National Guard security activities or specific questions concerning infrastructure protection.

The magnitude and urgent nature of the September 11th terrorist attacks and subsequent anthrax crisis and national alerts have led Governors to initiate their own efforts to coordinate and implement a comprehensive state-based strategy to detect, prepare for, prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from terrorist attacks within their borders. This great challenge comes at a time when Governors are “tightening belts” in order to balance their state budgets. But when it comes to protecting the citizens of their states and the critical infrastructure, Governors believe that as homeland defense priorities are set, they must be accomplished. That is true whether the funds have been made available yet or not and even though the circumstances were not foreseen.

States have borne unprecedented costs to ensure that the nation’s critical infrastructure and citizens are protected from terrorist attacks. These costs involve:

  • building up the nation’s public health system to respond to and recover from a biological, chemical, or other attack using weapons of mass destruction;
  • developing an interoperable communications system;
  • securing the critical infrastructure, from airports to border crossings, water supply to pharmaceutical labs, bridges and tunnels; and
  • securing and protecting crops and food supplies vital to the health and safety of citizens.

Mr. Chairman, this is a tall order and as stated earlier, states have and are paying a substantial price for homeland security. The National Governors Association estimates that the first-year costs alone could reach $5 billion to $7 billion nationwide, with $3 billion of this cost devoted to bioterrorism preparedness and emergency communication, and $1 billion devoted to guarding critical infrastructure. These costs will vary from state-to-state because of the different critical infrastructure and geographic location. But all states, from Maine to California and from Iowa to Texas, have a story to tell about the costs of beefing up security since September 11th.

Public Health System – Building a Capacity to Deal with Bioterrorism

The attacks of September 11th and subsequent anthrax scares highlighted the importance of developing and maintaining a strong public health infrastructure in every state and territory. In the months following the attacks, states spent millions of dollars in unbudgeted funds expanding the duties and work schedules of many public health employees to prepare for and respond to public health emergencies. In addition, Governors assessed and strengthened hospital surge capacity and capability, as well as public health laboratory capacity to analyze accurately and identify agents of chemical and biological terrorism.

As you know, Mr. Chairman, our nation’s public health system is built and supported by state and local governments. State governments conduct a range of disease surveillance and detection activities necessary for identifying public health threats quickly. States also coordinate, train, and deploy medical supplies and human resources required for treating victims of public health emergencies. However, most systems are currently tailored to respond to routine medical situations, not bioterrorist attacks.

Mr. Chairman, as stated earlier in this testimony, late last year this committee led the Congress to appropriate funding to improve immediately our nation’s capacity to respond to bioterrorist attacks. The nation’s Governors are especially encouraged that this committee recognized the importance of state and local governments in building public health emergency systems that can adequately protect our nation. Indeed, states will receive more than $1 billion in fiscal year 2002 to begin to develop comprehensive statewide and regional plans for responding to public health threats. The nation’s Governors applaud the commitment of the Administration and Congress in providing this immediate financial relief for states. States are currently developing comprehensive, statewide plans in anticipation of funding for laboratory build-up and other public health necessities. We all understand there is no way to predict whether an attack will occur in a metropolitan or isolated rural area-the need to coordinate an unprecedented response on little notice is critical. The Administration and Congress should build upon these current programs and recognize that states need substantial additional resources to protect citizens from bioterrorism, provide a mechanism for ensuring that funds are fairly allocated across states and territories, and recognize that Governors bear the ultimate responsibility and accountability for the development, implementation, and coordination of state plans. During a conversation with Governors at their 2002 winter meeting, Governor Ridge emphasized the essential role of states in coordinating funding.

The most important step that Congress can take at this time to protect our nation against public health threats is to commit to continue funding for this important state-based initiative well into the future. States are working to implement long-term comprehensive plans to protect Americans from the threats of terrorism today and into the future. These long-term goals will not be realized unless states can reasonably expect that Congress will not eliminate or diminish financial support in future years.

Developing a Communications System

The current focus on security has elevated the demand for public safety communications and information sharing needs in emergency situations. There must be interoperability of equipment between first responders – fire, police, emergency medical workers, and lab teams – with and between state and local police, across county and city jurisdictions, and with federal enforcement officials. These individuals must be able to communicate in a timely manner. There must not be another incident as that described by New York City officials when they warned about the imminent collapse of one of the World Trade Towers< on September 11th, but the individuals receiving the information could not reach fire officials in the Tower with their radio equipment. Instead they had to rely on the 19th century method of sending a messenger across long distances only to arrive less than a minute before the first tower fell. Mr. Chairman, this shouldn’t happen in the 21st century with the availability of top notch equipment and technical expertise.

Communication interoperability is the foundation for improving communications among public safety and emergency service agencies and, in turn, for reducing the lapsed time between receipt of, and response to, calls for assistance from citizens. It is at the heart of efforts to ensure rapid, clear, and secure voice and data communications. In an interoperable environment, communications are seamless, coordinated, and integrated. Also, security improvements are made to guard against cyber attacks on essential government and other critical sector operations.

Although interoperability is a national objective, it can only be achieved on a state-by-state basis. Therefore, the state must play a central role in designing and advancing the standards and objectives of the system.

Building an interoperable communication system will not be an easy task and will require a long-term commitment of federal and state resources to accomplish. Furthermore, the Governors want to ensure that funds are not squandered on the “wrong” equipment and that limited personnel and resources are not wasted on incomplete or redundant equipment and training. There should be no duplication of effort – resources are too limited. Rather this must be a short- and long-term sustainable effort to address the immediate and future public safety needs of interoperable communications.

Action must be taken at the federal level to ensure that there are adequate radio frequencies, known as spectrum, dedicated to public safety needs. Under the existing law, allocations are governed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Currently, there is inadequate available dedicated public safety spectrum. The situation will rapidly become worse as states develop more comprehensive communications systems designed to transmit voice and data targeted at incident prevention and emergency response.

In 1996, Congress gave broadcasters a portion of valuable public broadcast spectrum temporarily and at no cost for the auspicious purpose of conversion from analog to digital signals in the move toward high definition television (HDTV). At the same time the giveaway was under consideration, state and local governments submitted comments to the FCC urging prompt public safety action to allocate 24 megahertz of spectrum exclusively for state and local public safety including police, fire, and emergency medical services. On September 17, 2001, in the shadow of the worst terrorist attack in this nation’s history, the FCC issued a decision that will allow 21 broadcast companies to resell spectrum to the wireless industry. According to the FCC action, these channels will not be available for public safety use until 2006, if ever. In the meantime, state and local governments remain starved for adequate broadcast spectrum for public safety.

Mr. Chairman, the resulting situation puts states and local emergency responders in a serious situation with critical fiscal implications: what equipment should states and local governments purchase, lacking any certainty whether the public safety spectrum promised by Congress will, in fact, ever be available? The federal government must recognize that dedicated spectrum for state and local government public safety use is a part of the nation’s national defense strategy and must make immediate plans for its accommodation.

Protecting the Critical Infrastructure

Since September 11th, states have spent millions of dollars to ensure that the nation’s public and critical infrastructure are protected. These costs involve state and local law enforcement personnel, including the National Guard, who provide security for energy supplies, water resources, bridges, tunnels and inland waterways, ports, nuclear plants, borders and chemical laboratories. Governors believe that securing the infrastructure represents the first line of defense in homeland security.

Subsequent to September 11th, the President asked Governors to use the National Guard in augmenting security at the nation’s commercial airports. Although there has been reimbursement for some of these expenses, Governors did not limit their use of the National Guard or other security personnel to only that which was mandated at the President’s request, but also to meet federal requests for expanded security to protect aircrafts in hangars and airfield perimeters.

In addition to augmenting airport security, Governors were asked to provide assistance at several of the nation’s ports of entry and border crossings. This assistance was needed to expedite the trafficking of goods and services. Some border states had commercial venders who were experiencing slowdowns because they could not receive parts and other materials needed for production in a timely manner.

Another critical security need is the energy infrastructure – power plants, refineries, and transmission and distribution networks – that is vulnerable to risks associated with threats from terrorist attacks and weapons of mass destruction. Managing and securing the energy infrastructure, including oil and gas pipelines, is an essential element of the nation’s economic well-being, environmental protection, and community safety. States will need additional resources to work closely with federal agencies and the private sector in taking the necessary measures to protect our critical energy infrastructure.

Another infrastructure in need of protection is the public drinking water and wastewater systems. Nationwide, there are approximately 168,000 public drinking water systems. The nation’s wastewater infrastructure consists of approximately 16,000 publicly-owned wastewater treatment plants, 100,000 major pumping stations, 600,000 miles of sanitary sewers, and another 200,000 miles of storm sewers. Significant damage to this infrastructure could result in loss of life, catastrophic environmental damage to rivers, lakes, and wetlands, contamination of drinking water supplies, long-term public health impacts, destruction of fish and shellfish production, and extreme disruption to commerce and the economy. The best protection for the water sector lies in common sense actions to increase security and reduce threats from terrorism, including conducting vulnerability assessments, enhancing physical and electronic security, and implementing emergency response and recovery procedures. Because these actions often take place at the state level, it is imperative that Congress and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provide the states with increased funding to implement them.

Likewise, food safety is a major challenge to the nation’s overall security in dealing with bioterrorism and the infrastructure, given the possible use by terrorists of crop dusters for spreading defoliants or other chemicals or biological agents on crops, livestock, and the overall population. The introduction of diseases such as hoof-and-mouth, anthrax, and brucellosis through livestock or plants to the population at large would create a loss of confidence in the integrity of food production systems that could send economic and financial shockwaves across the country. The impact would be devastating and take industry years to recover.

In February 2001, the General Accounting Office (GAO) reported that during 1999, state food safety programs alone provided more than $301 million in resources to food safety and accounted for approximately two million inspections utilizing more than 5,700 staff years. This represents a tremendous state role in the food safety/public health protection system, especially since states account for more than 80 percent of the food safety enforcement actions that are accomplished.

In order to deal with an attack on the food supply, sufficient funding for laboratory and scientific capacity is needed in states. This capacity is essential to trace potential food borne illness outbreaks and for detecting food contamination and infectious animal diseases.

Finally, protecting the infrastructure will be costly for first responders, and states must coordinate and assist in meeting these costs. According to a survey of first responders conducted by the National Emergency Management Association (this organization represents state directors of emergency management) approximately $2.1 billion is needed to assist local first responders in building overall capacity and capability to respond to disasters. The first responder community must develop their emergency operating centers (EOCs) and communications and warning capabilities to complement the proposed alert system from the Office of Homeland Security. Also, more local emergency management personnel are needed to perform the functions of administration, planning, public education and awareness, exercises, and training. Additional fulltime local directors of emergency management and appropriate support staff could cost more than $140 million annually. And the total cost for establishing primary and alternate local EOCs needed to provide coordinating facilities for local response operation could cost more than $1.5 billion according to the survey.

Other Issues of Concern to Governors

Mr. Chairman, there are a number of issues we would like to raise for your consideration, including identification security, intergovernmental intelligence sharing, and the duration and reimbursement of federal assistance. Each has importance fiscal impacts for states.

The nation’s Governors are aware of several proposals regarding citizen identification security, including a national identification card, or requiring certain biometric markers or other identifiers on drivers’ licenses. While the Governors applaud these efforts to consider options for enhancing security, Congress and the Administration should approach this issue with caution. Moving to such a system would be very costly for states, especially the driver’s license issue, and should be discussed more with Governors and Secretaries of States. The technology and enforcement of significant new responsibilities would have significant fiscal impacts. In approaching the issue, very careful consideration must be given either to providing full funding to implement such a system or allowing maximum flexibility to states.

Another area that Governors, Congress and the Administration must work together on is intelligence sharing. A method must be developed to get critical information into the hands of first responders who can and must act on it in order to protect the nation. Governors understand and appreciate that there is information critical to the nation’s security that must be guarded at the highest levels. But it should be understood that state and local officials and responders can facilitate efforts at apprehending potential terrorists or others who pose a threat to the nation if they have the necessary information. Agencies such as the FBI and/or Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) would be required to share information and data bases with state and local officials. There will be a cost to state and local governments for additional personnel to assist federal authorities in carrying out the security mission. But human and fiscal savings would be achieved through preventing potential terrorists from reaching their targets.

As states near or have adopted our budgets for next year, they have raised the issues of reimbursement and whether we have the authority to stretch federal funds beyond October 1, 2003. Issues like building public health care infrastructure will require a long-term commitment, but currently there is little certainty about what the federal role will be from the fiscal perspective after fiscal year 2002 and 2003. We believe your committee could help on both fronts by clarifying federal intent on these important issues.

Conclusion

In conclusion Mr. Chairman, states have made a major commitment to homeland security since September 11th. A few examples are:

  • The Commonwealth of Kentucky anticipates spending $3 million alone in overtime costs to guard airports. Improvements in the state’s communications system start at $60 million, and the state has spent $1.6 million on purchasing new equipment such as vehicles, laboratory equipment, secure communications and other specialized gear.
  • Municipalities in the State of Maine have incurred an estimated $1.6 million in overtime and other costs for security and for responding to hundreds of anthrax scares.
  • The State of Michigan has spent $2.6 million for epidemiologists, microbiologists, and laboratory personnel to bolster the state’s response capabilities for anthrax and other potential types of bioterrorism.
  • In West Virginia, National Guard troops have been called up, and state employees have been asked to patrol and protect highways, bridges, waterways, refineries, and public buildings at a cost of more than $4 million.

Mr. Chairman, these and other states have been spending funds at a time when States are facing budget shortfalls of at least $40 billion overall, with an expectation that-notwithstanding national economic recovery-this shortfall will increase to $50 billion this fiscal year.

Therefore, the Governors urge Congress to make support for state and local government efforts a top priority. The federal government should provide adequate federal funding, support, and information sharing to ensure that homeland security needs are met. In addition to significant initial federal investment, ensuring homeland security requires yearly maintenance-of-effort by the federal government.

Finally Mr. Chairman, we understand the difficult task of developing a homeland security strategy for the nation. The Governors stand ready to work in partnership with the federal government to meet these challenges, but we need your assistance to ensure that we have the authority and funding to succeed.