The Terrorist Threat is not Limited to the 10 Largest Cities

The recent move by the House of Representatives to limit the Urban Area Security Initiative to only 10 cities has obviously caused concern for the 54 other UASI cities.  These cities will be clamoring to make the case that they too are at risk from the threat of terrorism.  While there are many past examples of terrorist acts or attempted acts across the country, from Oklahoma City to Seattle, one not need to look far to find a solid basis for this concern.

Let's look at some recent news for example.
NationalTerrorAlert.com is one of many sources that I use to stay on top of terrorism related news.  (NationalTerrorAlert.com is a private homeland security blog and not affiliated with any government agency.)  I get an e-mail daily with relevant news summaries and links to source news stories.  Today was no exception and the headlines explain my point well:
From this one example we see that terrorism is still an issue in New York City but also in Oregon and South Florida.

South Florida has seen its share of the terrorism threat yet it may soon be off the list of Urban Areas receiving funding under the UASI program (if House members have their way). 

The Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) was created in response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11 to provide funds to selected urban areas to assist them in building an enhanced and sustainable capacity to prevent, respond to, and recover from threats or acts of terrorism.  The UASI Grant Program addresses the unique equipment, training, planning, and exercise needs of large high threat urban areas.  Program activities must involve coordination by the identified city, counties, and the respective State Administrative Agency (SAA).

The South Florida region is home to two UASI cities (Miami and Fort Lauderdale) who work together and with the State of Florida's Regional Domestic Security Task Force to protect, prevent, prepare, respond, and recover from terrorist threats.

In 2003, the first year the UASI grants were distributed, Miami was ranked 11th out of 30 designated high threat cities in the United States.  As such, it is a good example of what type of program may be one of the victims of the budget axe.  

In Miami, the UASI program brought federal, state, local, and regional first responders together to develop projects to enhance South Florida capabilities to address the terrorism threat .  The UASI funding has been allocated to jurisdictions across the region to include Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Miami Beach, West Palm Beach, Broward County, Miami-Dade County, Palm Beach County, and Monroe County as well as many other jurisdictions within this region.

Funding has helped develop plans and provide equipment, training and exercises for special teams across the region.  These investments have supported significant improvements in the regions anti-terrorism capabilities and have supported an overall rise in the level of preparedness and response capabilities.

The UASI grant has provided the South Florida region with equipment such as:  chemical detectors, thermal imaging cameras, personal protective equipment, maritime response vessels, command units, satellite phones, notification systems, redundant radio equipment, generators, power supply back-up for 911 dispatch, tactical ballistic helmets and vests, a helicopter, medical supplies, and many other projects.  

The grant has also provided funding to help coordinate planning, training, and exercises that ranged from interdepartmental incident command training and tabletop exercises to Citywide emergency exercises to regional cross-discipline/multi-agency mock events.  All of the exercises are then evaluated through After Action Reports and improvement plans which are used to continue the cycle of improvement.

The South Florida UASI, like many others across the nation, have been measuring these improvements.  The State of Florida led early efforts to develop a "Capabilities Assessment for Readiness" to measure local capabilities.  Miami built on this to develop a new capabilities assessment tool and worked with FEMA on a pilot capabilities assessment project. The state and regions conducted several capabilities assessments which were used to measure and plan improvements. As a result, the gains were documented and were available for use in making strategic planning updates and investment decisions.

Despite this good work in Miami and other similar UASI cities, Congress seems to think that the program is inefficient and without a means for the measurement of effectiveness.

The record shows us something different.

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