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Tuesday, January 25th, 2022

Sen. Tester highlights homeland security funding priorities in government funding bill

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During a roundtable discussion in Montana on Friday, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) highlighted provisions of the federal omnibus spending bill that are designed to bolster homeland security by increasing resources for critical security and local police departments.

Tester, the ranking member of the U.S. Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, noted that the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, H.R. 1625, included $45 million for the Law Enforcement Officer (LEO) Reimbursement Program. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) can use the funds to purchase screening equipment and local police departments can use the funds to deploy officers to airports.

“Defending Montanans and keeping families safe is a top priority,” Tester said. “It is critically important that our law enforcement officers have the resources they need to secure our borders and intercept illegal drugs. I will keep taking my cues from the police officers and sheriff’s departments that work hard every day to keep our communities safe and secure.”

H.R. 1625 also includes a $30 million increase for grants administered through Operation Stonegarden. These grants enable local and federal law enforcers secure the border and target drug smuggling. Police departments in Flathead County, Montana, received more than $100,000 in Stonegarden Grants last year alone.

The government funding bill also includes a $1.8 billion overall increase in funding for Customs and Border Protection (CBP), bringing the annual funding level to $14 billion. Plans call for the hiring of an additional 328 CBP officers to support drug interdiction efforts at ports of entry.

Additionally, the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program received $415 million in the government funding bill. JAG grants can be used by local police agencies for personnel, equipment, supplies, training, contractual support, training assistance and information systems. Sixteen local police departments in Montana received JAG grant funding last year, including $31,850 awarded to Flathead County and $18,244 awarded to the Blackfeet Tribe.

Tester also recently introduced the Assisting Narcotics and Trafficking Officers in Interdicting (ANTI) Drugs Act. The measure would reauthorize and increase funding for federal grant programs that help local communities reduce drug-related crimes.

“Drugs can destroy lives, tear families apart, spur crime, make our streets less safe and derail promising futures,” Tester said on earlier in the month. “This bill will help raise awareness about the risks of drug abuse and keep drugs out of our most vulnerable communities. I’m taking my cues from the police and sheriff’s departments and I am fighting to ensure they have the tools they need to keep us safe every day.”