Attorney General Prepared Remarks
Domestic Preparedness Program Grant [NOTE: THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OFTEN DEVIATES FROM PREPARED REMARKS] August 17, 2001
I'm pleased to have this opportunity to observe Dayton's emergency response agencies at work in preparing for a terrorist chemical weapons incident.
Exercises like this are critically important to ensuring that our nation is fully prepared to respond to terrorism here at home.
And I thank all of the public safety officers, medical personnel, and volunteers who are participating in this impressive operation.
It's clear it's going to take this kind of cooperation and coordination to effectively prepare for and respond to terrorism, to ensure public safety, and to prevent injury or loss of life.
I also thank Lieutenant Governor O'Connor and Dayton City Manager Lemmie for your support for Dayton's domestic preparedness efforts. We know it's going to be up to our state and local leaders to coordinate the initial response to a terrorist event, and your involvement here is an important part of ensuring this capability.
Over the past several years, the Department of Justice has been working in partnership with states and local communities to develop a national program to enhance the capacity of state and local emergency response personnel to respond to weapons of mass destruction and other domestic terrorism incidents.
To assist in this effort, we provide funding for planning and equipment acquisition, specialized training, technical assistance, and exercise planning and execution - such as the exercise here today.
This year, the Justice Department has over $220 million to help states and local jurisdictions better prepare to respond to terrorism.
And, given the critical importance of these efforts, President Bush has requested additional funding for counter terrorism initiatives in our 2002 budget.
An important part of our efforts is in helping states - in collaboration with local authorities - to assess their needs and resources to determine what they will need in terms of equipment, emergency responder training, and other resources to adequately respond to a domestic terrorist incident.
This includes looking at the needs of hospitals and the medical and public health communities as well. As you've no doubt discovered today, they're critical elements of our domestic preparedness response.
I'm pleased to announce that, today, we're awarding two grants totaling $1.8 million to assist Ohio in its counter terrorism efforts. This includes $1.5 million to the Ohio Department of Public Safety to help purchase the basic equipment public safety officers need to safely respond to a terrorist incident.
And the remaining $253,000 will help the Ohio Emergency Management Agency conduct its assessment of Ohio's first responder needs and capabilities and to develop a comprehensive three-year statewide domestic preparedness strategy.
With these grants, Ohio can continue to build on the progress you've demonstrated here today in preparing to respond to a terrorist incident.
In addition to our funding, support for exercises, and other resources, the Justice Department is working to assist communities respond to terrorism on a number of other fronts.
For example, we also support research to identify, develop, and increase access to technology for state and local first responders.
And we're working to address the issue of communications interoperability. We want to avoid situations like we encountered during the Oklahoma City bombing, when emergency personnel were forced to send runners between command stations because the different radio systems didn't allow direct communication among personnel from all the different agencies that responded to that tragic event. So we're now testing new communications technology in 28 cities that will allow different agencies to "talk" to one another during an emergency.
We're working on another problem that emerged from the response to the Oklahoma and similar tragedies. We need to ensure that states and localities are adequately prepared to deal with the impact of a terrorist event on victims and survivors, as well as on first responders.
We've found that emergency responders often suffer the same kinds of emotional trauma as "civilian" victims. So the Justice Department's Office for Victims of Crime is working with communities across the nation to put in place crisis response teams to respond to these needs.
We've also got to make sure that we're prepared to deal with cyberterrorism. The Justice Department recently created a National Infrastructure Protection Center to help bring together all the information we have about cyber attacks to better protect our nation's infrastructure.
All of these domestic preparedness efforts have one overarching goal - to ensure that those of you at the state and local levels build the critical capacity to adequately respond to domestic terrorism. At the Department of Justice, we recognize that the threat of terrorism here at home is a serious and growing challenge for our nation.
And we realize that the initial responsibility for responding to a Weapons of Mass Destruction event rests on your shoulders - at the local level.
I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your commitment to better preparing yourself and the City of Dayton to respond to the threat of terrorism in our country.
Your dedication is clear evidence that our nation is taking the necessary measures to prepare to manage an unthinkable event involving Weapons of Mass Destruction. Thank you for all you are doing to ensure the safety of your community.