Tester secures commitment for stronger northern border security

Homeland Security chief confirms grant dollars to be used to bolster U.S.-Canadian border security

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester today secured a commitment from the U.S. Homeland Security Secretary for grant resources to strengthen security along Montana’s northern border with Canada.

During a Senate hearing, Tester questioned Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on recent suggestions that grant dollars for border security were being directed exclusively at America’s southern border.

Tester specifically questioned Napolitano on funding for “Operation Stonegarden”—an initiative to strengthen coordination between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies along the nation’s borders.  Tester praised the effort’s cost-effectiveness and asked Napolitano to clarify if the grants would be available to northern border communities.

“There would be Stonegarden grants available to the northern border?” Tester asked.

“Yes there are Stonegarden monies available, Senator,” Napolitano answered.

“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 agreed, while citing that fewer resources would be available in 2012 due to budget cuts in the House of Representatives.

Tester later called confusion about the fate of Stonegarden resources the product of other “members of Congress who haven’t done their homework.”

Every border county in Montana has received funding through Operation Stonegarden since the program was expanded to include the northern border in 2008.  When first established in 2006, the program served only southern border states.

Tester also questioned Napolitano on efforts to improve interoperability between communications systems on the northern border, as well as the current efforts by airport officials in Great Falls, Mont., to increase the passenger loads of flights able to land at the airport.

“We will work with the Great Falls Airport authority,” Napolitano pledged.

Video of Tester’s exchange with Napolitano is available HERE.