Fed cuts put Homeland Security at risk - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Fed cuts put Homeland Security at risk

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

Monday's bombings at the Boston Marathon.

Wednesday's fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas.

The poison letters that traveled right through the Mid-South.

All three high profile incidents from around the country and Homeland Security forces sprung into action. While  they proved their worth, Mid-South officials warn federal funding cuts are putting Homeland Security programs at risk.

"Without the funding you just simply can't do what we've been doing the last 10 or 12 years," said Bob Nations, Director of the Shelby County Office of Preparedness.

Since 2010 Mid-South Homeland Security programs have had their federal funding slashed by as much as 80 percent.
    
"We've experienced again in this country, this week, how quickly how devastating, and how deadly acts of terrorism are," said Nations, who helps coordinate Homeland Security operations for six counties in the Mid-South.
 
Six counties across three states (Crittenden, Shelby, DeSoto, Tipton, Lauderdale, and Fayette) are part of a program called the Urban Area Security Initiative, a regional program designed to share Homeland Security resources. According to the Shelby County Office of Preparedness the federal government provided an average of $3.3 million in grant funding between fiscal years 2006 and 2010.

But in 2011 the federal funding stopped.
    
"We have to start thinking: What did we look like prior to the advent of Homeland Security because that's where we're turning the clock back to," Nations said.

The Obama administration discontinued the Urban Area Security Initiative grants for the Memphis area and other mid-sized cities around the country, Nations said. The money paid for Homeland Security, disaster relief training and equipment.

In 2013, the region only received $377,000 from the federal government, and in the next fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1, they're not expecting any money.

"The inability to train, the inability to keep equipment enhanced, the inability to conduct exercises that's going to end," Nations said. "I mean, that's just a reality because we can't afford to continue those activities with the last of these funds."

Government funding paid for a mapping systems which was used during the 2011 floods, training and equipment for the regional explosives unit, advanced radio systems and information sharing systems.

Mid-South Homeland Security departments are expected to be prepared to respond to a variety of threats. Officials say that will be a challenge.

"You have to stay ready and you have to stay prepared," Nations said. " That's the critical piece to losing the funding. It's very difficult to stay at that level of readiness and preparedness if you don't have funding to sustain those efforts."

President Barack Obama's latest budget proposal didn't include any funding for Mid-South Homeland Security funding, Nations said. But he did stress local authorities are prepared to use the resources they have to respond to a terrorist threat or a disaster.

They're talking with federal officials about reinstating these grant programs. FOX13 News reached out to the White House and FEMA about the cuts but they have not responded.

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