Feb 27 2002
STATEMENT OF SENATOR RICHARD C. SHELBY
WASHINGTON, DC -- U.S. Senator Richard C. Shelby (R-AL) today commented on the Federal Emergency Management Agency's role in responding to acts of terrorism:
"I appreciate the opportunity to talk to us about FEMA's role in responding to acts of terrorism. I am very interested in this topic for several reasons. First, the Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) and Noble Training Center are located at Fort McClellan in Anniston, Alabama. Both of these facilities provide unique training capabilities for our nation's first responders and medical personnel. In addition, the Anniston Chemical Destruction Facility on Anniston Army Depot is located in Calhoun County, Alabama. In light of the attacks on September 11th, many of my constituents have raised concerns about the safety of the facility and FEMA's role there."
"Over the past few years Congress has made a significant investment in the Center for Domestic Preparedness and Noble Training Center so that they can train thousands of first responders and medical personnel. I am hopeful that the new emphasis on domestic terrorism will allow us to further increase our investment in these fine facilities.
"As a part of the five member National Domestic Preparedness Consortium (NDPC), the CDP has the unique distinction of housing the only live agent training facility in the United States. At the CDP, first responders are trained with live agents to give them hands-on experience responding to, detecting, and dealing with live agents that they may encounter in the field.
"But this is not just about facilities. We have an exceptional training program in place at the Department of Justice. I believe that it is extremely important to maintain the integrity and the capabilities of these training programs.
"I am troubled by the Administration's proposal to transfer the Office of Emergency Preparedness from the Department of Justice to FEMA. Primarily, I am deeply concerned that ongoing first responder training efforts could be compromised by this proposal to switch lead agencies mid-stream. Any disruption in training activities could result in serious consequences. Beyond the issue of whether you could implement a successful transfer without interruption, the question still remains, why are we doing this? Why are we taking the chance that training could be interrupted?
"To date, I have been provided little information to convince me that this will be a valuable transfer. Furthermore, the information that I have received leads me to believe that your agency is just beginning to do their homework regarding the nation's first responder training programs. I look forward to working with FEMA as this process continues and learning how this transfer will, in the end, better serve our nation's first responders and our country.
"I would also like to touch on another subject that relates to FEMA's role in responding to acts of terrorism. That subject regards the protection of the communities that are home to U.S. chemical weapons stockpiles. I am very sensitive to the concerns of the people who live in these communities. I am encouraged by the steps the Army and the FAA have taken to increase the security of these stockpile facilities.
"FEMA is responsible for all off-post emergency preparedness activities in relation to the nations chemical stockpile sites. Technical and bureaucratic problems have plagued the CSEPP program in Anniston, Alabama. My primary concern has and continues to be the safety of the Anniston community.
"The Alabama delegation has worked diligently with the Army and FEMA for years to ensure that maximum protection is realized. The Governor of Alabama has recognized problems with the CSEPP program and has exercised his option to seek a judicial remedy.
"Major issues remain to be addressed within the CSEPP program in Calhoun County regarding these critical safety measures and how FEMA plans to increase its commitment to the community."