AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Emergency Management Agency will use a close to $4 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security to further enhance communication as part of its effort to protect the state’s borders.
News of the grant was announced Monday evening by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee. The funding is being distributed under the umbrella of the Border Interoperability Demonstration Program, which is designed to identify innovative and effective solutions to enhance emergency communications along and across northern and southern U.S. borders.
E.R. Anderson, press secretary for the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, said Wednesday that MEMA will use the award to buy six new radio towers that will expand coverage to more rural areas and fill in communications blind spots. The agency also will purchase more than 300 new mobile radios for first responders to use with the new towers. Some funds also will be used for emergency communications planning and exercises.
Collins said the grant program “puts funding directly into the areas that need it the most.”
She noted that a recent Government Accountability Office report found that the U.S. Border Patrol does not have the ability to detect illegal activity across approximately three-quarters of the northern border. “Budget constraints have prevented the U.S. Border Patrol from having the kind of staffing and programs it needs to efficiently and effectively control the northern border,” Collins said in a written statement. “But improved communication infrastructure and enhanced partnerships between federal, state, local, and tribal officials, as well as with their Canadian counterparts, can act as force multipliers, keeping the border open to our friends, but closed to those that would do us harm.”
As part of the Border Interoperability Demonstration Program effort, Washington County has partnered with Aroostook, Somerset, Franklin and Oxford counties and and other tribal and Canadian entities to enhance emergency communications capabilities along Maine’s 611-mile international border.