March 29, 2010

CONTACT: Chris Gallegos
(202) 224-6414


Post-Katrina Communications Project is High Priority for State of Mississippi

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) today reported that the Department of Homeland Security has released $100 million approved by Congress to allow Mississippi to move forward with an interoperable communications system to improve its responses to emergencies and disasters.

The $100 million grant derives from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funds allotted to the state of Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina. The resources will be used to advance the Mississippi Wireless Integrated Network (MSWIN), which the state identified as one of its highest priority requirements to prepare for future disasters and emergencies.

Cochran has been instrumental in securing congressional support for redirecting Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) funds to the FEMA State and Local Programs account for the MSWIN project. This release brings the total amount of redirected HMGP funding for MSWIN to $140 million—all spearheaded by Cochran.

“Hurricane Katrina taught us valuable lessons, one of the most important being the need for emergency responders to be able to communicate with each other. The interoperable system developed by the state of Mississippi is intended to give emergency and rescue personnel the ability to better coordinate recovery efforts,” said Cochran, who is vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and a member of the subcommittee that funds DHS and FEMA.

“I appreciate the Department of Homeland Security for releasing these funds, which will allow this project to move forward,” he said.

After Hurricane Katrina, emergency communications systems were completely disabled. Emergency responders from all over the state and nation poured into the affected areas and were unable to communicate over local communications systems, which were incompatible with other systems.

Cochran shepherded the redirection of federal funds to support the MSWIN in FY2008, FY2009 and FY2010, securing approval to rescind funds made available to the state of Mississippi under HMGP and reappropriate those funds to the State and Local Programs account. None of the $100 million now being released to the state is new funding, but rather existing FEMA funding awarded to Mississippi through the HMGP. This award will assist the state of Mississippi in implementing MSWIN, which will cost an estimated $177 million.