Quigley Questions Secretary of Homeland Security During Congressional Hearing
Today, U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (IL-05) participated in a hearing held by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security where he questioned Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas about Urban Area Security Initiative Grants (UASI). UASI grants assist high-threat, high-density urban areas, like Chicago, build and sustain the capabilities necessary to prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from acts of terrorism. Quigley’s questions focused on the Department of Homeland Security’s goals and vision for the program under the Biden administration.
Earlier this year, Quigley led a letter to Mayorkas to request that the Biden administration reject the Trump administration’s proposed changes to UASI that would redirect funds away from cities that rely heavily on that funding to keep their citizens safe. Mayorkas has since withdrawn the proposed changes.
The UASI program was created to assist urban areas in their efforts to prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from acts of terrorism, making it absolutely necessary to maintain functioning and funding for the UASI program to keep our cities safe.
Video of Quigley’s questions for Mayorkas is available HERE. A transcript has been provided below:
QUIGLEY: Thank you Madam Chairman. Mr. Secretary, thank you for being here.
Mr. Rutherford touched on a little bit the UASI grants, and for those watching those are Urban Area Security Initiative grants that assist high threat, high-density urban areas like Chicago. They help us build and sustain the capabilities necessary to prevent—protect against, respond to, and recover from acts of terrorism—all threats foreign and domestic
Let me ask broadly, what's your vision for UASI? And I guess before I say that I should thank you as well. I was pleased to hear that DHS under your leadership prevented some of the quick changes to the formula that were proposed previously, so I appreciate that. But as we go forward and as we always see evolving threats, what's your vision for this and can you talk about some of the challenges the UASI program currently faces?
MAYORKAS: Thank you very much congressman, indeed I did put a halt to changes in the grand formula that would have redirected Urban Area Security Initiative grants in a way that in my view and in the view of fellow experts would not have delivered public safety and security in the most effective way to the urban areas across the United States.
Those grants, we have calibrated to address the most urgent priorities affecting our homeland. So two important changes that I made, was to require a certain percentage of the grant funds 7.5% to be precise, dedicated to combating domestic violent extremism. That equates to approximately 77 million dollars. In addition, again to address the most urgent threats facing our homeland, I increased the minimum amount that must be dedicated to cybersecurity from 5% to 7.5%.
MAYORKAS: One of the things that I am looking at very closely congressman, in partnership with the law enforcement community and the emergency and first responder community writ large, is whether the formulas do need to be redesigned to better deliver for the urban areas that the grant program is designed to serve. As so we are going to be engaging with stakeholders across the country to better understand their concerns with the existing formula and see what changes if any are suitable to meet more effectively the moment.
QUIGLEY: And you would come back to us before implementing those, I would assume at least for some thoughts and consultation?
MAYORKAS: Most certainly congressman
QUIGLEY: Part of this is as the threats grow, and obviously we’ve seen it in what you’ve had to address with cyber in your talk about increasing that, others asking for this which in the formula changes would have diluted the effort right? Is there a need not just to reassess who needs what but just how much we need and perhaps an overall increase given the enhanced threats, again, not just foreign but clearly domestic now?
MAYORKAS: I would welcome that conversation Congressman. I think that is a very very important one to have.
QUIGLEY: Finally any new tools that you're talking about with state and local leaders? The example I hear about is updating integrated information sharing networks to improve analyzing, synthesizing, and disseminating info to prevent such attacks?
MAYORKAS: Thank you so much congressmen, and indeed we are engaged in discussions with our state, local tribal, and territorial partners. One of the things which you mentioned is the provision of information to them, not only in real-time but to make sure that the information we provide is actionable for them. One of the things that we discussed—I discuss with our Office of Intelligence and Analysis, is whether that office—INA—everything seems to be known by an acronym in the federal enterprise, is whether the Office of Intelligence and Analysis has the infrastructure to deliver real-time actionable information, on both a secure environment and an unclassified environment and we with the support of this subcommittee and Congress are building a better infrastructure for that
QUIGLEY: We appreciate that and my time is up but I look forward to those communications and working with you and giving you the resources you need. Thanks again for your help, I yield back.