Tuesday, February 28, 2023

City of Austin Awarded $1.5 million Grant for Terrorism Prevention

The City of Austin will receive $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to help the city and the surrounding urban area guard against acts of terrorism.

Mayor Kirk Watson received a call from U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas on Monday to share the news of the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) Grant Program award. The program, created in 2003, targets security funding to high-threat urban areas to prevent, respond to and recover from threats or acts of terrorism. This is the first time Austin has been awarded a UASI grant since 2010.The money will support efforts in Travis, Williamson and Hays counties and the cities of Austin and Round Rock.

“We greatly appreciate this grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to assist our community in preparing for and responding to terrorism in all forms,” Mayor Kirk Watson said. “Our approach to readiness must evolve to reflect the threats as they are today, and this federal grant will help us be smart and nimble in our efforts to protect Austin from terrorism. Thank you to Secretary Mayorkas and our Congressional delegation for this assistance.”

The UASI program is intended to provide financial assistance to address the unique multi-discipline planning, organization, equipment, training, and exercise needs of high-threat, high-density urban areas. The grant funding assists these communities in building and sustaining capabilities to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from threats or acts of terrorism using a “whole community” approach.

Currently, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) primary focus is on collaboration and information sharing among stakeholders to build a national culture of preparedness and protecting against terrorism and other threats to national security. Due to evolving threats by sophisticated actors that now include cyber threats, threats to crowded events, and domestic extremists, DHS has identified six priority areas related to the most serious threats to the nation:

  • Enhancing the protection of soft targets/crowded places.
  • Enhancing information and intelligence sharing and analysis.
  • Combating domestic violent extremism.
  • Enhancing cybersecurity.
  • Enhancing community preparedness and resilience.
  • Enhancing election security.

“Keeping Austin residents safe is our primary focus, and that includes being alert, aware and prepared for potential terroristic threats,” Interim City Manager Jesús Garza said. “The growth in the Austin urban area, including the addition of major infrastructure, increased population and large-scale events that draw tens of thousands of visitors, all influenced the decision by the federal government to award this grant. This funding, along with Austin’s longstanding commitment to public safety, will help ensure we are anticipating, preparing for, and circumventing threats, as well as collaborating with cities across the nation to share information and support one another in this critical effort.”