The U.S. Department of Justice has approved Connecticut’s Domestic Preparedness Strategic Plan, making the state eligible for $2.6 million in federal funds that will be spent on training and equipment for defense against terrorist acts.
Gov. John Rowland outlined his state defense strategies Wednesday in front of about 650 local politicians and emergency response officials during a training seminar sponsored by the Domestic Preparedness Senior Steering Council. Rowland proposed giving law enforcement officials expanded wiretapping authority and requested background checks for anyone taking flight lessons in Connecticut. The governor also wants capital punishment for those who commit acts of terrorism resulting in one or more deaths.
In his speech, Rowland reinforced his earlier statements promising the allocation of funds for preparedness training, disaster response, and recovery. Some of the funds will come from the federal grant.
Earlier this month, Rowland expressed his support of the federal strategic plan.
“Connecticut is one of the first states in the nation to have its plan approved,” Rowland said. “The grant money that comes with this approval means we will have both the plan and the resources in place to improve our response to possible threats of terrorism.”
Rowland spokesman Dean Pagani said the plan was constructed by a group of state agencies led by the National Guard. The plan was submitted in December, and the U.S. Department of Justice responded with $2.6 million for “first responders” — local police and fire departments. This money is meant for training and equipment, some of which will measure levels of contamination in air and water.
The first phase of the project is expected to provide funding to the cities of New Haven, Bridgeport, Groton, Hartford, New London, Stamford and Waterbury in February.
Pagani said a great deal of money will be distributed to local police and fire departments because they are the first to respond to emergencies.
Pagani also stressed the importance of proper training. If local police or firemen are inadequately trained and an emergency situation arises, “[sending them to help] could be sending them to their deaths.”
In addition to the federal grant, other security measures are in place. On Jan. 24, Rowland announced that the Connecticut National Guard has received three new Black Hawk helicopters from the federal government and will receive five more by the end of this year. These helicopters will perform state emergency response missions, including firefighting, disaster relief, and protection against weapons of mass destruction.
Sgt. J. Paul Vance, commanding officer of the Public Information Department of the Connecticut State Police, said there has been an emergency preparedness plan in effect within the state for about 15 months. The plan focuses on response to biological threats. Currently, the Division of Protective Services, the group in charge of domestic preparedness, is working to enhance the existing plan.
“Much of the current plan, especially the parts dealing with biological responses, will be expanded dramatically,” Vance said.
Connecticut’s defense plans are part of a nationwide trend to institute anti-terrorism measures.
“Homeland security is now a top priority for all states,” Rowland said on Jan. 24.
–The Associated Press contributed to this story.