Tester confirms continued funding for northern border security

Havre Daily News

by Tim Leeds

On the heels of an announcement of a multi-million dollar grant to increase communications capability in Montana on the U. S.-Canadian border, Montana’s U. S. Sen. Jon Tester said he has received assurances that other funding will continue to improve security on the northern border.

In a press release, Tester said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano assured him during a Senate hearing that grant money would continue to be available on the northern border and would not be directed solely to the U. S.-Mexican border.

The original Homeland Security budget request for 2011 and 2012 asked for $50 million each year, but specified that the money be used in the nation’s southwest border. That stipulation was removed for 2011 by Congress in the budget passed April 14.

Montana’s U. S. Rep. Denny Rehberg decried the southwestern border stipulation. He announced April 21 he had joined other lawmakers in sending a bipartisan letter to Napolitano requesting she reconsider that policy.

Napolitano said in the Senate hearing Wednesday that, although funding is being reduced by Congress, money would be available for the northern border including in 2012.

“Can I get your assurance that when 2012 comes around, there will be dollars, whether Stonegarden or some other grant, to develop partnerships with local law enforcement agencies up on the northern border? ” Tester asked.

“It is fair to say that through Stonegarden or other grants, there will be dollars available, ” Napolitano said.

Tester said questions about what would happen to Stonegarden resources and whether they would be available on the northern border were the product of other “members of Congress who haven’t done their homework.”

That has included local funding, such as the Hill County Sheriff’s Office last year using $75,000 of a 2008 $150,000 grant to purchase new vehicles to use in helping secure the northern border.

Blaine County Sheriff Glenn Huestis said in late April his department had not yet spent half the $215,000 it received from the program in 2009, and he still has the entire $190,000 the department received in 2010.