Tester Secures Funding for Stronger Montana Law Enforcement, Border Security
Senator Uses Budget Bill to Bolster Funding for Local Police Officers, Firefighters, Airport Security, and Customs and Border Protection Officers
(U.S. Senate)-U.S. Senator Jon Tester is fighting to keep Montanans safe by strengthening local law enforcement, supporting rural firefighters, and increasing border security funding in an important budget bill.
As Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, Tester successfully secured $85 million, a 55 percent increase, in the budget bill for Operation Stonegarden, which provides grants to local, tribal, and federal law enforcement agencies to defend the country's borders, intercept illegal drugs, and combat human trafficking. Tester worked closely with Republican Senator John Boozman (R-Ark.) to author the Homeland Security provisions in the budget bill.
"Montana's law enforcement officers are working around the clock to keep our families and our property safe," said Tester. "These additional resources will help local law enforcement officials to partner with their federal counterparts to crack down on drugs entering our ports and ensure that there are no weak links along the northern border. This bipartisan agreement to bolster law enforcement funding does right by Montana."
Montana law enforcement agencies utilize Operation Stonegarden grants annually to increase preparedness, coordination, and effectiveness along the state's 545-mile northern border. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security awards Operation Stonegarden grants to local and tribal law enforcement agencies based on levels of security risk. In 2016, 12 Montana local law enforcement departments received Operation Stonegarden grants.
Tester also secured $700 million for Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) and the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants in the budget bill and is responsible for including an additional $10 million for firefighter equipment, staffing, and training.
AFG grants provide rural fire departments with the resources needed to equip firefighters for emergency situations. SAFER grants provide funding directly to professional and volunteer fire departments to help increase and maintain the number of trained firefighters in rural communities.
Tester authored legislation with Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) to reauthorize these critical firefighter grants after they expired in 2017. President Trump signed Tester's bill into law in January-paving the way for the grant funding to be included in the budget bill.
"When Montana firefighters are in harm's way, it is critical that they have the most up-to-date and safest equipment," Tester said. "Rural and volunteer fire departments often operate on razor thin margins and these firefighter grants help them stay fully prepared for when disaster strikes."
In addition to securing funding for law enforcement officers and firefighters, Tester used his position as the Ranking Member to include the following safety and security provisions in the budget bill:
- Provides $249 million for FEMA's Pre-disaster Mitigation Program so local governments are better prepared for upcoming disasters.
- Rejects the Trump Administration's proposal to eliminate critical transportation security funding that reimburses local police departments who patrol local airports and keep Montanans safe while traveling.
- Increases funding to update flood hazard mapping by $85 million to ensure flood maps are up-to-date and accurate for families and businesses.
- Encourages the Department of Homeland Security to purchase protective gear and uniforms that are made in the U.S.
- Requires the Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to take specific actions along the northern and southern borders.
- Hire more personnel to better secure rural areas.
- Focus more recruitment and retention efforts on veterans.
- Conduct a study to expand access to high-speed internet for CBP employees and their families in rural and underserved communities near the borders.