WELCOMING REMARKS OF
THE HONORABLE DEBORAH J. DANIELS
ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL
OFFICE OF JUSTICE PROGRAMS
NATIONAL DOMESTIC PREPAREDNESS CONSORTIUM MEETING
ON THURSDAY, MARCH 14, 2002
Good morning! I want to welcome all of you here today and thank you for all you are doing to help prepare our nation to better respond to terrorism.
Monday's 6-month anniversary of the September 11th attack on America is a vivid reminder that, even here at home, no one is safe from an act of terrorism. It is also a reminder that it is local emergency response agencies and personnel who bear the initial responsibility for responding to such tragic events and for protecting life and property from further harm.
The National Domestic Preparedness Consortium and its partners are a critical force in preparing our nation to prevent terrorist attacks on U.S. soil and to respond quickly and effectively should another attack occur. In the last 5 years, you've trained almost 100,000 state and local emergency responders in courses ranging from basic awareness to hands-on exercises involving live agents, explosives, and other dangerous substances. Over 77,000 of those were trained prior to September 11th.
The specialized training you provide has helped prepare our nation to respond to the full range of threats - from chemical, radiological, and nuclear agents; to explosive and incendiary devices; to biological incidents.
Over these past 6 months, we've seen how our response to terrorism must include a broad span of community partners. Through your work, you're ensuring training is available to all those in the community who are responsible for responding to a catastrophic event - law enforcement officers, fire fighters, emergency management response personnel, public works, emergency medical services, and local government officials.
And you're also now providing training to hospital workers. As we saw during the recent anthrax crisis, our medical professionals are so important in identifying biological threats, treating victims, and educating the broader public in prevention measures.
Your valuable work enables all these responders to acquire the skills they need to better protect themselves, their colleagues, and the public in a terrorist or other weapons of mass destruction event. The individuals you've trained are helping to build our capacity to counter terrorism throughout the nation -- from large cities, to the suburbs, to rural areas.
In fact, the distance learning you provide is particularly valuable to personnel in rural jurisdictions. They often are responsible for the safety of vast geographic areas, yet they usually have very limited resources. So I applaud your innovative efforts to make your training more accessible.
As you probably know, counterterrorism training is only one of OJP's domestic preparedness initiatives. Over the past several years, OJP has provided an array of financial and other assistance to help states and local jurisdictions better prepare to respond to terrorism on U.S. soil. However, the September 11th attacks on America have galvanized our efforts.
For example, through the Public Safety Officers' Benefits Program, our Bureau of Justice Assistance is providing financial assistance to the families of the courageous firefighters, police officers, medical rescue personnel, and other public safety officers who died while trying to save the lives of others in the World Trade Center attack.
Using lessons learned in responding to the Oklahoma City bombing, our Office for Victims of Crime is providing crisis counseling and helping the victims of September 11th access assistance, including services and financial compensation supported through our funding programs.
Our National Institute of Justice provided expertise and "high tech" camera equipment to assist in recovery efforts - both at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon - and continues to work on developing technologies to enhance homeland security. NIJ also assisted with the identification of World Trade Center victims through a contribution of DNA technology funding.
And our Office for Domestic Preparedness worked closely with New York officials to re-establish New York City's Emergency Operations Center, which was destroyed in the attack.
ODP also has increased its efforts to help states develop their 3-year statewide domestic preparedness strategies, and has provided funding to help states purchase specialized counter terrorism equipment. ODP will have over $300 million available to states this fiscal year under the equipment program.
In addition, ODP continues to work with local communities to conduct exercises to test readiness and flag gaps in terrorism response planning. We've already conducted 93 exercises, including, during the year 2000, TOPOFF, the largest federal, state, and local full-scale simulation of chemical, biological, and radiological attacks ever conducted -- involving hundreds of partners, including many of you. We're planning to conduct an additional 220 exercises this fiscal year, and TOPOFF Two in the spring of 2003.
In counterterrorism training and exercises, we've also made new efforts to cooperate and coordinate with other federal agencies. The cooperative efforts of federal, state, and local partners during the 2000 TOPOFF exercise was remarkable. But we need to continue that coordination on a day-to-day basis; and we need to continue to work to break down the barriers posed by our natural tendency, as human beings, toward a bit of territorialism. As you know, the President's 2003 budget calls for the transfer of ODP to FEMA, in order to centralize our nation's first responder training and equipping efforts. The Department of Justice supports this decision. Should the transfer take place, OJP will do everything possible to make it smooth, seamless and effective. Our nation's security is too important to allow this process to be disrupted in any way.
In the meantime, our Office for Domestic Preparedness will continue to work closely with all of you to deliver the best possible training to as many first responders as possible, and to equip them to deal effectively with potential terrorist attacks.
We also need to do more to improve communications among all levels of government. So we're expanding the scope of our Regional Intelligence Sharing System - or RISS - program, to improve information sharing among federal, state, and local jurisdictions to better address terrorist threats. And we're working to develop new technology to solve the critical problem of communications interoperability so that multiple jurisdictions responding to an incident can communicate with one another.
We're also helping to get individual citizens more involved in national efforts to ensure our homeland security. Together with FEMA, OJP is working to implement the Citizen Corps. It's part of the USA Freedom Corps, a new Administration initiative that President Bush announced in his State of the Union address.
The Citizen Corps is a network of volunteer organizations that will marshal the skills and knowledge of the American people to prepare local communities to help public officials prevent and respond to terrorism, and to increase the level of volunteerism throughout the country.
It's designed to provide an outlet for the thousands of individuals who are looking for opportunities to serve our country and their neighbors in the aftermath of September 11th.
Last week, Attorney General Ashcroft announced one component of Citizen Corps - an expanded National Neighborhood Watch Program. We're providing $1.9 million to the National Sheriffs' Association to work with communities across the country to double the number of Neighborhood Watch programs over the next 2 years, as well as to expand their focus to encompass the threat of terrorism.
We also collaborated with the National Crime Prevention Council and the Ad Council on a series of Public Service Announcements with the theme "United for a Stronger America." The PSAs encourage individuals to start Neighborhood Watch programs and to call a toll-free number -1-800-WE-PREVENT - to get a Citizens' Preparedness Guide describing specific actions individuals can take in their communities.
OJP is also implementing another component of Citizen Corps. The Volunteers in Police Service - or VIPS - program draws on the time and talents of civilian volunteers to assist law enforcement agencies. This, in turn, allows law enforcement professionals to better perform their frontline duties.
These Citizen Corps initiatives will help individuals meet the challenge issued by President Bush and Attorney General Ashcroft to make preparedness a part of our daily lives; and will also provide a means for all of us to do something tangible to help our fellow man -- to make the world a better place.
Attorney General Ashcroft and all of us at OJP are strongly committed to helping, in the Attorney General's words, to "form a common defense against terrorism." I know that each of you is equally committed to this critical goal. Thank you for sharing your considerable expertise and knowledge to further our homeland defense. I look forward to continuing to collaborate with you in this extremely important work.
Thank you so much for allowing me to join you today, and to express my sincere gratitude for the work you are doing.