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Thu, May 14, 2009

A New Role For Civil Air Patrol?

House Passes Congressman Dent’s Bill To Expand CAP Role in Homeland Security  

A bill by U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent (PA-15, pictured below)) that requires an assessment of how CAP can support homeland security missions was approved by the House of Representatives Tuesday. Congressman Dent is a member of both the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Homeland Security Committee.

The bill (H.R. 1178) directs the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study the ways in which the CAP may assist state, local, and tribal governments and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) by:

  • Providing aerial reconnaissance or communication capabilities for border security;
  • Providing assistance in a collective response effort, including damage assessment, search and rescue, and evacuations;
  • Assisting in departmental training exercises.

GAO’s report to Congress must assess the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of utilizing CAP assets and the ability of federal and state agencies to request CAP support. Upon completion, DHS must review and analyze the report and, within 90 days, submit recommendations to the Congress for further action.

Congressman Dent has long advocated the use of CAP pilots and aircraft for homeland security missions. He conceived this legislation in 2007 after a visit to the border town of Laredo, Texas, to address concerns raised to him by officers of Customs and Border Protection, who said they lacked sufficient aviation assets and resources for their important mission.

“Continuing a proud tradition, a CAP force of 57,000 volunteers and over 500 aircraft across the country stand ready to support the Nation’s homeland security mission,” Congressman Dent said. “I believe this study will find that using CAP resources to bolster our border security and assist in disaster response is a sensible and cost-effective measure.”

The Civil Air Patrol is a congressionally chartered, federally supported, non-profit corporation that serves as the official auxiliary of the United States Air Force (USAF). First organized at the beginning of World War II, the CAP is a volunteer cadre that handles 90 percent of inland search and rescue missions in the United States. Civil Air Patrol planes have been among the first to survey the aftermath of such disasters as the attacks of September 11, 2001 and Hurricane Katrina.

“The passage of Congressman Dent's Civil Air Patrol Homeland Security bill in the House today marks a major step forward in ensuring that Civil Air Patrol's emergency capabilities are fully utilized by all Federal agencies,” said Maj. Gen, Amy Courter, CAP National Commander. “With 550 aircraft, thousands of trained and experienced aircrew, and a nationwide communications system CAP can be a valuable component of our national defense.”

FMI: http://dent.house.gov, www.capnhq.gov

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