WASHINGTON – Just as the threat peaks for an electromagnetic pulse hit on the United States – either from a solar flare or an enemy attack – the mandatory federal spending cuts signed into law by President Obama call for less spending for disaster relief, according to Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
Sources say the initial $85 billion in automatic cuts for fiscal year 2013 could include $1 billion in disaster relief funds administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Sequestration also would affect the Department of Homeland Security’s ability to provide security screening. Some sources say it could amount to four or five hours waiting in security lines for a flight, due to the furlough of officers with DHS’ Transportation Security Administration.
DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano has warned that federal responses to disasters and other homeland security needs would be seriously impaired due to budget cuts.
“Hurricane Sandy, recent threats surrounding aviation and the continued threat of homegrown terrorism demonstrate how we must remain vigilant and prepared,” she said. “Threats from terrorism and response and recovery efforts associated with natural disasters will not diminish because of budget cuts to DHS.”
An EMP, an electromagnetic pulse, is estimated by scientists to be able to shut down the nation’s power grid and other functions, such as food and fuel supply systems, sending the nation back to the 19th century. It could come from a major solar eruption or from an enemy’s high-altitude nuclear explosion.
“Even in this current fiscal climate, we do not have the luxury of making significant reductions to our capabilities without placing our nation at risk,” Napolitano said. “Rather, we must continue to prepare for, respond to and recover from evolving threats and disasters – and we require sufficient resources to sustain and adapt our capabilities accordingly. We simply cannot absorb the additional reduction posed by sequestration without significantly negatively affecting frontline operations and our nation’s previous investments in the homeland security enterprise.”
The Appropriations Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives was even more blunt in a report warning of the impact of sequestration.
It said FEMA would lose more than $1 billion in disaster-relief funding, which would directly impact aid to families, businesses and communities rebuilding from storms, floods and other disasters.
Victims of Hurricane Sandy, which recently struck the Northeast, eventually would stand to lose almost $2 billion in assistance, officials estimated.
Such cutbacks also would have a cascading impact on funds available to state and local law enforcement, the report said. These law enforcement entities would see some $120 million in cuts to state and local homeland security grants, along with another $100 million in grants from the U.S. Justice Department, which would lead to layoffs of first responders.
The congressional committee report also said drastic budget cuts would force the U.S. Coast Guard, which also comes under DHS, to cut its air and surface operations by 25 percent, greatly affecting its mission.
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