FDLE discusses homeland security concerns

Posted at 11:29 PM, Dec 18, 2015

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) is losing hundreds of thousands of dollars next year, and they're pleading for state lawmakers to help.

The I-Team discovered if they don't get it, several key jobs in fighting terrorism could be lost.

A federal $21 million homeland security grant given to Florida is set to expire in 2016.

For FDLE, it could mean nearly a dozen people in counter-terrorism could lose their jobs.

"It's critical. It's critical not just to FDLE, but to the state of Florida," says FDLE's Molly Best.

Best says the homeland security jobs on the line work in the state's Regional Domestic Security Task Force.

Nine planners help identify high level threats and tips. They also coordinate and share information with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies across Florida.

A Senior Crime Intelligence Analyst helps identify critical infrastructure and potential terrorist targets within the state.

If the state loses those jobs, Best says it would weaken our protection from terrorists.

"If those positions were lost, it would weaken for sure because we don't have anybody then to go out there and analyze and look at these situations, and these situations are constantly changing," said Best. 

FDLE is asking state lawmakers for $643,396 to preserve all 10 jobs.

"Without those efforts the state of Florida I think would be vulnerable," said Best.

Here in Tampa Bay, Major Mark Hamlin with the Tampa Police Department runs the special operations unit in charge of homeland security efforts.

He says if the jobs are lost, it wouldn't affect security in Tampa Bay.

"No. The people in Tampa Bay would still be safe. The urban area security initiative, UASI as we call it for short, has a very robust critical infrastructure assessment and protection program. And we're way above the national average as far as identifying, protecting, critical infrastructures. I'm very confident that we'll be safe."

But Best says, "These positions provide us with an invaluable resource in that they go out and they find out what our priorities are, where our gaps are, what resources we need, what personnel we need, in our time of need."

State legislators meet in January to discuss this issue. 

According to FDLE, it is in their hands whether these 10 jobs will continue counter-terrorism efforts in Florida.