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Digging Through President’s Proposed Budget Reveals White House Effort To Do Away With “VIPR” Dog Teams That Support Critical New York Counterterrorism & Security Operations; These Dogs Keep NY Transit Hubs Safe & Do Not Cost Much At All

Schumer Has Had To Fight For The Dogs Of DHS Before—But We’ve Never Been Faced With A Plan That Axes All 31 Teams; NYPD, State Police & Agencies Across Country Rely Heavily On Dog Teams Amidst Some Of America’s Most Serious Threats

Schumer: White House Is Barking Up The Wrong Tree With Bad Plan To Axe Dog-Sniffing Security Teams

With the White House prepared to swing the axe and totally eliminate a critical and effective New York City counterterrorism tool—dog-sniffing bomb detection teams—which are used across transit hubs like Penn Station, airports and more, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer is sounding the alarm and gearing up for a worthy fight. The counterterrorism tool also known as Visible Intermodal Prevent and Response (VIPR) teams are often utilized across the city in transit hubs, particularly when threat levels are up. New Yorkers have not only grown used to seeing dogs in places like Penn, airports, ferries, ports and special events, but they welcome their presence. Schumer is revealing, today, that the just-out budget crafted by the president and his team has quietly cut the VIPR dog teams from 31 to 0. Schumer announced a new fight to keep the public safety pack protecting us and made the case as to why the administration should reverse its decision immediately.

“It is unthinkable, especially with terror threats all the more common here, to think that the White House would even put a plan to rid New York and the nation of critical DHS and TSA canine VIPR teams, because those dogs do some of the most critical work, and often at a moment’s notice,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “I’m making it public that I’ve got a bone to pick with the White House over the total slashing of the VIPR counterterrorism teams and the way in which this was handled—without any input from experts or Congress. So, we will fight this cut, make the case, and hopefully keep this critical tool that is used by NYPD and others readily available.”

Schumer detailed the cut specifically on page forty-six of the President’s budget. The document makes clear that “the budget proposes to eliminate the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) Teams. The program is duplicative of the efforts of State and local law enforcement agencies and lacks sufficient demonstrable benefits to justify its continuation.” Schumer said this kind of justification simply means putting the burden on the localities, like the NYPD, explaining how under that current White House budget proposal locals would end up footing the bill if they wanted to sustain the canine teams that save lives and screen for explosives.

“This is just pushing the cost from the feds to the city, any city,” Schumer added. “But terror threats are of national concern, and New York, other big cities and transit hubs should not be shouldering the brunt of these security costs.”

Schumer explained that the canine teams help ensure national security and allow, for example at airports, TSA agents to more effectively and efficiently screen individuals for explosives. These dogs often play a necessary and critical redundancy to other security measures that screen individuals for explosives or explosive residue.  

Schumer also said he has fought this sort of effort before, but never a total and complete cut. One of the president’s previous budget proposals grossly slashed VIPR canine teams by $43 million or 23 total teams. Schumer led a bipartisan effort via a spending bill to restore those cuts and secured around $59 million to the VIPR initiative, sustaining 31 teams, which is the current cost and count nationally.

Canine teams include a highly trained detection dog and a handler. Visible Intermodal Prevent and Response (VIPR) teams augment the security of any mode of transportation at any location within the United States. VIPR teams may approach people and ask questions, examine bags, search vehicles, conduct searches, and patrol the airport to detect suspicious activity. According to the TSA, the agency allocates canine teams to specific cities and airports utilizing risk-based criteria that take into account multiple factors, including threat score, number of people with secure access, and passenger throughput.

Schumer has always supported the TSA’s use of canine screening teams, and in the past, the TSA has increased the number of highly trained Passenger Screening Canine Teams at New York City airports at Schumer’s request. Canine teams have been useful here, as well. For instance, Schumer pointed to an incident in February 2017 when eleven people walked through an unattended TSA checkpoint at JFK Airport. According to reports, eight of the passengers were screened by a canine prior to boarding. Schumer explained that because these teams are often deployed in real time, their usefulness is critical to law enforcement.

“We only have 31 VIPR teams across the country, and New York is often one of the destinations. To outright do away with these dog-sniffing bomb detection teams could be a giant mistake and put an even bigger target on New York,” he added.