My generation grew up in the shadow of September 11th. The memory of that day has forever shaped us as Americans. During my time as a graduate student at the Naval War College and now as a member of Congress who sits on the House Homeland Security Committee, I am constantly reminded of the evil that terrorism brought to our doorstep and of the countless heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice in protection of our freedom and our Republic.
Twenty years later, the threat of global terrorism remains an ever-present concern. Just last month, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) called attention to the changing threat landscape across the United States. One such concern is that foreign terrorist organizations are working to inspire violent extremist attacks around the anniversary of September 11th. There is also significant concern that a homegrown violent extremist, inspired by a foreign terrorist group, will attempt to commit an act of terror as we saw with the Boston Marathon bombing or the San Bernardino shooting.
In recent weeks, the threat of a terrorist attack has increased after the collapse of Afghanistan, which is now in the hands of an American weapons-armed Taliban. The incompetent handling of the military withdrawal by the Biden Administration left our service members vulnerable and resulted in the tragic loss of 13 American heroes. While the threat of another ISIS attack remains a significant concern, al Qaeda has also renewed calls for lone-wolf attacks on the homeland. Our adversaries around the globe are watching, and we must remain vigilant to ensure the continued safety of our citizens and our way of life.
While our military forces are hard at work keeping us safe abroad, here at home, first responders are our first line of defense. From responding to major terrorist attacks and detecting weapons of mass destruction to security screening operations and fire suppression activities, first responders play an invaluable role in communities across America, and it is imperative that they have all the tools, training, and equipment they need to get the job done. The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) suite of preparedness grants plays a critical role in ensuring that these first responders have the funding and resources they need to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards, including terrorist attacks.
As lead Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee‘s Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Recovery, I proudly support these vital FEMA preparedness grants. In our home state of Florida, Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) grants enable the Tampa Police Department to regularly conduct patrols within Port of Tampa Bay to increase port security and deter criminal or terrorist activity. FEMA’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) provided over $2.7 million in funding in FY 2021 to nonprofit organizations across Florida for target hardening and other physical security enhancements. And, the Assistance to Firefighter Grants (AFG) has provided financial assistance directly to eligible fire departments, emergency medical service (EMS) organizations, and State Fire Training Academies for critical training and equipment. In our area, Clay County Fire Rescue received one of these grants just last month to better protect first responders from harmful carcinogens.
Now more than ever, it is critical to ensure that we as a nation are ready to address the very real challenges that lie ahead. In my leadership role on the House Homeland Security Committee, I will work to ensure that our first responders have the support, funding, and resources necessary, so that our country remains prepared. On this 20th anniversary of September 11th, we pause to remember that even in the face of the greatest evil, the American people will always rise, and together we can and will overcome anything.
• Kathryn C. “Kat” Cammack is an American politician and political advisor serving as the U.S. Representative for Florida’s 3rd congressional district.