June 29, 2004 The Senate Public Safety, Judiciary, Homeland Security and Justice Committee took testimony Monday afternoon on a bill to establish a Homeland Security Office for the territory.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Lorraine Berry, states that the office is necessary because of the vulnerability of the territory.
Harold Baker, state director for the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency, and Eddie Charles, Law Enforcement Planning Commission director, provided testimony on funds received for Homeland Security and how they were expended.
"From 1999 to present, all federal funds received under Homeland Security have been used for that purpose," Charles said.
The territory has received about $5.5 million in federal funding for Homeland Security between 1999 to 2003, Charles informed the committee that most of it has been expended for planning and equipment, including Hazmat and bomb tech equipment.
Berry asked the officials where they thought the territory was in terms of preparedness.
"Right now I would say we are in the training process," Charles responded.
Baker said he would "like to see more" in terms of getting executive officials trained and prepared in the event of an attack.
Baker said the territory currently has about 179 miles of unprotected coastline and that needs to be addressed. He said the territory does not have sufficient Coast Guard presence and suggested the use of unmanned aerial vehicles to help.
The committee will act on the measure during its July 8 meeting.
Senators present at the afternoon session were Berry, Carlton Dowe and David Jones.
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