Contacts: Larry Dye, Senator Domenci's Office, (202) 224-6621
Kristen Kudeke or Jude McCartin, Senator Bingman's Office, (202) 224-5521
Selma Sierra, Rep. Joe Skeen's Office, (202) 225-6989
WASHINGTON, D.C., March 11, 1999 -- U. S. Senators Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman, and U. S. Congressman Joe Skeen have announced that the Clinton administration has relented from its plan to withhold $3 million which Congress provided to New Mexico Tech as part of a national program to prepare American cities for possible terrorist attacks.
Last month, Domenici blasted President Clinton's budget, which recommended eliminating 1999 funding for the National Domestic Preparedness Consortium and proposed redirecting $8 million elsewhere.
New Mexico Tech, a consortium member, was to receive $3 million in 1999 for its work to help prepare firefighters, law enforcement, medical, and other emergency personnel to respond to
potential acts of chemical, biological, or nuclear terrorism.
In response, the U. S. Department of Justice has indicated to Domenici that it will follow congressional intent to provide funding to the consortium, including New Mexico Tech.
At yesterday's hearing to review funding for the Justice Department in 2000, Domenici asked U. S. Attorney General Janet Reno to release the funding to New Mexico Tech as soon as possible and further explain the administration's plans for the consortium next year. The Clinton budget, unveiled in February, proposed no direct funding for the consortium, but instead focused attention on counter-terrorism activities at Fort McClellan in Alabama.
"I'm pleased the administration will back the Justice Department's commitment to the consortium," Domenici said. "Now we need the Justice Department to release this funding quickly so New Mexico Tech and the other members can get on with the work of preparing Americans for the possibility of terrorist attacks.
"In terms of plans for 2000, I believe Congress will carefully look to make sure that the Justice Department doesn't overlook the specialties offered by New Mexico Tech and other members of the consortium," Domenici added.
Formed by the Justice Department in June 1998, National Domestic Preparedness Consortium members are New Mexico Tech's Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center (EMRTC), the National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center at Texas A&M University, the Nevada Test Site, the National Bio-Medical Research and Training Center at Louisiana State University, and the U. S. Department of Justice facility at Fort McClellan.
The Clinton administration proposes using only the Fort McClellan site for "live agent" training, abandoning the conventional explosives expertise at New Mexico Tech, and the counter-terrorism specialties offered by other consortium members.
Domenici, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, also serves on the Senate Commerce, Justice, State, and the Judiciary Appropriations Subcommittee that met yesterday to review Justice
Department funding requests for 2000.
The Defense Against Weapons of Mass Destruction Act of 1996, commonly referred to as the "Nunn-Lugar-Domenici program," established a program to train and equip first responders and other public safety personnel in 120 major cities over the course of five years. An expanded effort on domestic counter-terrorism is being funded through the Justice Department.