FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 9, 2007
MAYOR BLOOMBERG TESTIFIES BEFORE U.S. SENATE COMMITTEE ON HOMELAND SECURITY AND GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS
The following is the text of Mayor Bloomberg's testimony as delivered.
"Chairman Lieberman, Ranking Member Collins, Senator McCaskill, Senator Hester, Senator Stevens, Voinovitch, Coleman, Sununu, thank you all for having, me here.
"First, let me congratulate you, Mr. Chairman, on your recent selection as chairman. I think everyone knows of your formidable commitment and your well-documented commitment to fighting terrorism and I look forward to working with someone who really understands the needs of New York and the region. Let me also acknowledge Senator Collins for her great service in leading this Committee - a Committee that's played a crucial role in ensuring the safety of our nation. It's also a pleasure and an honor for me to be- to join three distinguished members of the 9/11 Commission: Lee Hamilton and Slade Gorton, and Tim Roemer. These are three people that I guess I never thought I'd be sitting with so the pleasure is mine.
"This morning, I want to take a brief- the brief opportunity I have to talk about the progress New York City has made since 9/11 in improving our counterterrorism capabilities. I also want to discuss crucial areas where the federal government can and must do more to help this nation. As residents of the world's media capital, the nation's financial hub, and a center of international diplomacy, we in New York realize that the attack on the World Trade Center was not intended to be a single, solitary event. We remain a prime - if not the prime - target for al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups and that presents challenges we are determined to meet head on. And we are sparing no expense.
"As I've said repeatedly, my responsibility as the mayor is to first do everything I can to keep our city safe and then to find a way to pay for it, and not the other way around. And from the outset, I think we've done exactly that. Our administration has taken steps to strengthen all parts of our city, including our first line of defense - the NYPD. We created a unique Counterterrorism Bureau and overhauled the NYPD's Intelligence Division. Both units - which now employ a total of 1,000 police officers- and they've become models to other big city police departments around the nation - and crucial weapons in the global fight against terrorism.
"In August of 2004, for example, they foiled a plot to bomb the Herald Square subway station in Midtown Manhattan - just a week before the Republican National Convention. The tip came from an informant whom the Intelligence Division had cultivated in our city. And just yesterday, you may have read in the paper, one of the plotters was sentenced to 30 years in jail for what he was trying to do. Today, the NYPD's intelligence and counterterrorism program reaches around the world. In fact, we currently have 10 of our best detectives posted in Tel Aviv, London, Singapore, and other foreign cities - working to obtain a full picture of the global terrorism threat. Getting a first hand view of other approaches has always been one of our guiding management principles. We don't have all the answers and we will take help from anyone, anyplace. We do not worry about whether we invented it or not; we only worry about whether it would be useful and whether it's right.
"Other City agencies are also keys to our counterterrorism response. Our Fire Department has thoroughly expanded training for chemical, biological, and radiological emergencies. We've also created a subway simulator at the Fire Academy to train for emergency underground problems- and we're expanding the length of training for our new recruits, making ours one of the longest and most intensive firefighter training programs in any city in the world. Our Health Department's Syndromic Surveillance System examines 60,000 pieces of health information every single day - including ambulance runs and pharmacy sales - for the first signs of a bio-terror attack. With bioterrorism, discovering that you're being attacked is as difficult as dealing with the actual attack. Our response last year to an isolated incident of anthrax - although unrelated to terrorism - I think demonstrated our enhanced capability to identify and then react. Our Office of Emergency Management, which recently moved into a new state-of-the-art headquarters, has taken the lead in organizing dozens of inter-agency simulations.
"They've tested, for example, responses to natural disasters such as a Category 4 hurricane, and terrorist attacks that employ bio-terrorism and other weapons of mass destruction. We've done simulations on our subway system; we've done simulations in Shea Stadium. We continue to believe that looking at these problems in advance is the way to be prepared when something happens. Inter-agency communication and coordination has also has been enhanced through our 'Citywide Incidents Management System' - or 'CIMS,' C-I-M-S, as it's called - which adapts the new National Incidents- Incident Management System to America's largest city and clearly spells out the division of responsibility for first responders at major incidents.
"CIMS has frequently been put to the test during our day-to-day operations and response - from aviation accidents to building collapses and explosions. And in each case CIMS has ensured that we responded swiftly and expertly. In New York, we understand that preventing terrorism and responding to any large-scale emergency also depends on smooth coordination among key Federal, State, and City agencies.
"Our Police Department has an exemplary working relationship with the FBI's New York field office and its assistant director, Mark Mershon. And we've assigned more than 120 police officers to the FBI-NYPD Joint Terrorism Task Force. And I think the result is a genuine two-way information sharing that's unique in America. For example, when we discovered a threat to our subways in 2005, we stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the FBI and assured the public that we were taking the steps necessary to keep our transit system safe. That's what we're doing to keep our city, region, and, to some extent, the country safe. But my message to you today has to deal with how we pay for this because all of these prophylactic and response capabilities require fundings. And such excellent cooperation with the FBI notwithstanding, some parts of the federal government has not been as good a partner to us as I think they should be.
"From Day One, I have urged that Homeland Security funding be distributed based on risk and risk alone. I first made this case in front of members of the House Appropriations Committee in April of 2003. And I've repeated this call before Congress and at the White House many times since. I've talked about threat-based funding when I testified before the 9/11 Commission - and I was glad that Vice-Chair Lee Hamilton, Senator Slade Gorton, Congressman Tim Roemer, and the other Commission members heartily endorsed my recommendations. Yet time and time again, our calls for fully risk-based Homeland Security funding have been ignored. Instead, we have seen huge sums of Homeland Security money spread across the country like peanut butter. More than $3 billion has been distributed in this irrational way so far. Some communities don't even know what to do with it when they get it. For instance, one town spent some of its share on a custom-built trailer for its annual October mushroom festival. Al-Qaeda must be laughing all the way to their tents.
"Meanwhile, New York City - which has enormous needs, which has been attacked before, and has been targeted many times since, and will most likely be targeted again - goes wanting. If you want to build a honey pot to spread money around the states, around the 50 states, so be it, but call it what it is. Don't call it Homeland Security. Homeland Security funds should all go to the places where we need those monies. Do not confuse risks with targets. Every place there are risks, but there aren't that many targets and targets are what the enemies of this country will focus on. And I think it's fair to say that both the Administration and Congress share the blame for the politicalization of homeland security funding. For the sake of New York City - and the sake of our nation - I hope you stop writing politically-derived formulas into Homeland Security bills. Instead, you should give the Department of Homeland Security complete flexibility to allocate 100% of Homeland Security grants funds according to risk, threat, and return on investment - and then challenge the Department to exercise this flexibility in a coherent and rigorous manner.
"Now, to give credit where credit is due, Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff has expressed now a willingness to bring more common sense into the process, and to build- and to better address our concerns. Last Friday, the Department of Homeland Security released new guidelines for the distribution of funds in Fiscal 2007 which gave greater consideration to threat, vulnerability, and consequences of a terrorist attack. For the first time, the Department's Urban Areas Security Initiative will recognize six high-risk sensitive areas - including New York. Establishing this high-priority group is a step in the right direction - but when you actually compare the percentage of funding that these six cities received last year with what's being set aside for them this year, it is virtually the same. And until we find out precisely what the allocation, it's unclear if these new guidelines will make a difference in the details.
"Let me end with a little bit of other good. After years of vigorous lobbying on our part, the Department of Homeland Security finally plans to loosen some of the restrictions on how Urban Areas Security Initiative money can be spent. For New York, that means we can use up to 25% of our allocation to support the officers in the counterterrorism and intelligence units. We've always believed that one of the strongest defenses against terrorism is good old-fashioned 'boots on the ground,' not spending the money on equipment that we don't need. And now we may finally get some federal support to help keep them there. We will continue to work with Congress; we'll continue to work with the Department of Homeland Security to increase the flexibility of their funding guidelines. Homeland Security grants, for instance, still can't be spent on construction - despite the fact that hardening sensitive targets can significantly lower the risk of attack. We'll also work with Congress and the Department of Health and Human Services to fix the distribution of bioterrorism preparedness funds.
"New York is only one of a handful of places in this nation that has ever experienced a bio-terrorist attack. Yet in Fiscal 2006, we received $4.34 per capita, putting us an incredible 27th out of the 54 eligible states and cities. We will also continue to challenge Congress on making funding available for our wireless emergency communications networks, which we've been developing for several years. This year, the federal government will be- distribute one billion dollars for the development of state and local interoperable communications system. This is a very sensible effort - and it speaks directly to one of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations.
"But as of now, you should know, none of that funding is available to New York City because our systems will operate on frequencies other than the ones specified in the federal government's new grant program. For New York, this restriction punishes us for our aggressiveness in protecting our city: We've already invested more than $1 billion of our own money in our network's infrastructure. And we're building it on a frequency that works best in the subways, skyscrapers, and density of our urban environment. We've tried to develop a solution that makes sense for our city's needs - because one size does not fit all, nor will it. And for Congress to move forward on their plan without making sure New York City is part of it is just the height of foolishness.
"And when you think about it, that's really the heart of the problem here. Time and time again, the federal government has tried to apply uniform solutions to localities like New York City which deserve more nuanced and individual attention. What this country really needs is a federal policy-making process that recognizes New York City for what it truly is: One of the largest, most densely populated areas in the world, a powerful symbol for what our enemies deeply despise, and a city that already has been targeted many times. This is our reality - and it is one that defies a mathematical formula - no matter how well-intended.
"So I appreciate the opportunity to be here. I would just urge you to take a look at not the politics but what will keep this city, this region, and this country as safe as it can possibly be.
"Thank you very much."
Stu Loeser (212) 788-2958