The National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center, a part of the Texas Engineering Extension Service, will receive $22 million in federal funds to provide homeland security training, exercises and technical assistance to the nation’s emergency responders. The funding, part of the 2006 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill, was approved by the House-Senate Conference Committee and went to the House and Senate this week for final approval.
Since 1998, when Congress designated TEEX as the National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center (NERRTC), the agency has delivered more than 4,300 weapons of mass destruction (WMD)/terrorism courses to more than 169,000 emergency responders in all 50 states and six U.S. territories. In addition, TEEX has created and delivered 266 mock-disaster exercises for 18,923 participants in communities nationwide.
NERRTC is a member of the National Domestic Preparedness Consortium (NDPC), a partnership created to provide a focused, threat-responsive, long-term national capability for the nation’s emergency responders.
“This (2006) funding provided by Congress to the National Domestic Preparedness Consortium will allow TEEX to continue its nationwide training program on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security to reach as many as 65,000 responders a year,” said NERRTC Director H. Lobdell. “The Office for Domestic Preparedness has established priorities for training which reflect a new threat-based approach. This means that we expect to be (conducting training and exercises) in most of the major population centers, which find themselves at greatest risk to natural or terrorist-induced disasters.”
The approved funding level includes a $2 million increase for NERRTC, reversing a 60 percent cut in allocations proposed earlier this year. The Texas delegation worked with Congress to reverse the Administration’s proposed cuts, and U. S. Rep. Chet Edwards coordinated a bipartisan support letter signed by 22 members of the Texas delegation to the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Harold Rogers recommending increased funding.
“In the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, it is more evident than ever that it would have been a serious mistake for the Administration to reduce the number of emergency first responders trained by NERRTC,” Edwards said in a press release announcing the funding. “Protecting our homeland from terrorist attacks and natural disasters must be the first priority of our federal government.”
Calling the funding a significant milestone in homeland security, Texas A&M Vice Chancellor and Dean of Engineering Dr. G. Kemble Bennett said, “This funding will enable NERRTC to continue its important mission of preparing communities to protect themselves from the evils of terrorism. The citizens of Texas and indeed, the entire United States, are better equipped and prepared because of the hard work of Congressman Edwards and the Texas delegation.”