STATEMENT OF SENATOR CHRISTOPHER S. BOND
EPW Hearing with Director Tom Ridge Wednesday,
Thank you, Director Ridge, for joining us today before the Environment and Public Works Committee. I have known you for many years and I do not envy the position you are in now.
But we, and the Nation, are greatly indebted to your service to get America back on its feet after the terrible tragedy of September 11 th. We know that you will do your best to protect us from ever experiencing such a horror again.
The President's leadership on September 11th and since has reassured the nation that we are doing everything possible to protect our health and safety.
The President's bold action, and now your responsibility, continues with the most far-reaching reorganization of the federal government in 50 years. The new Department of Homeland Security will eliminate barriers between the government's critical intelligence and security functions. We will better protect our borders and our communities. The President deserves the support of Congress.
I hope we will not be slowed by politically-motivated second-guessing by his opponents. We need to protect people, not turf.
That turf includes both this committee and the VA, HUD appropriations subcommittee. VA, HUD, like EPW, includes both EPA and FEMA in its jurisdiction.
I can assure you, as someone who might otherwise be fighting to protect their turf, that I am fully supportive of the President's plans to move all of FEMA to the new department.
With the creation of the new Department of Homeland Security, I also support the President's plan to transfer DOJ's Office of Domestic Preparedness and the FBI's National Domestic Preparedness Office to the new department.
Hopefully, you will soon have additional tools to accomplish your mission. The First Responders legislation voted out by this Committee last month includes language based upon my Urban Search and Rescue bill. The legislation provides $3.5 billion for first responders including $160 million for urban search and rescue task forces.
Emergency workers are the 21 st century equivalent of the Minute Men. For too many years, the federal government has given our local first responders a dime for every dollar they need to be ready to respond to terrorist strikes. This legislation will fix that chronic lack of funding.
Our public health and hospital networks also need our support to respond to increased threats. Last year, 2,300 Missourians died from infectious diseases, almost the same number as the World Trade Center tragedy.
Infectious diseases of the future may be the result of bioterrorism attempts. I will continue to fight to get you additional funds for antibioterrorism activities, including much needed funds to upgrade state and local public health and hospital infrastructure.
Getting back to the environment committee, we are also greatly concerned about protecting our drinking water from intentional acts of terrorism. I appreciated you joining the President and EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman last month on a visit to our water treatment plant in Kansas City. You know that every family in America depends upon clean and safe water. We depend upon water to fill our fire engines and put out our fires. Every business depends upon water for its employees and many for their operations.
We must make sure that the infrastructure we use to collect water, make it safe to drink and use, and send out to every home and business is protected from an intentional attack.
Likewise, we depend upon chemicals, like chlorine, to clean our water and make it safe to drink. We depend upon chemicals, like anhydrous ammonia, to make fertilizer to provide plentiful agricultural products to the nation and the world.
However, the government makes public information which terrorists can use to target vulnerable chemical facilities for attack. I have a bill, the Community Protection from Chemical Terrorism Act, that will protect communities surrounding chemical facilities.
I would be curious to hear your comments on how the new department will protect communities from the misuse of sensitive information from all our critical infrastructures.
We also have a commercial nuclear power plant in central Missouri, not more than 25 miles from where I live in Mexico, Missouri. These plants are probably the most heavily regulated, best defended, and most robust facilities in our nation's industrial infrastructure. We will explore ways to make them even more secure.
Part of that review will also include an evaluation of emergency response and evacuation requirements communities surrounding nuclear facilities. So, we will be interested in your views on that subject as well.
In this time of war, the President and his national security team deserve our full support. As part of the war on terrorism, I believe that you deserve our full support as well. I hope that our relationship in launching this new department will be a partnership. Congress will have many concerns over the makeup of the new department.
My sole concern will be what will it take to keep Missouri, and the nation's, families and business safe from harm and help them to recover from disasters. I hope my colleagues will do the same.