Chief Hank Clemmensen, IAFC first vice president, testified before the House Homeland Security Committee’s Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications on the federally-proposed consolidation of 16 homeland security grant programs.
As part of the FY 2013 budget, the Obama Administration proposed consolidating 16 of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant programs into one new National Preparedness Grant Program (NPGP). DHS has released only a vision of the program changes which raise concern in the public safety community who depend on the grants to support national response capability.
In his testimony, Clemmensen credited federal official’s desire to ensure programmatic effectiveness and economic efficiency, but cautioned the House panel to think beyond the fiscal elements to the broader value the grant programs brings.
“The great success of the federal homeland security grant programs is that they provide an incentive for federal, tribal, state, territorial and local jurisdictions to work together,” said Clemmensen. “By planning, training, and conducting exercises together, local fire chiefs, police chiefs, sheriffs, public health officials, emergency managers, and state and federal officials are able and ready to work together when an incident happens. This pre-planning and coordination prevents confusion, and directly saves lives.”
He assured Congress that the existing grant programs have improved the nation’s emergency response capabilities, citing national, regional and local examples of how this funding directly improves response capacity.
As the direct link between the federal funding and its successful impact, Clemmensen urged Congress to delay consideration of the NPGP proposal for a year to ensure first responders can contribute to a plan that reflects reality on the ground.
Chief Clemmensen’s testimony laid out seven principles for evaluating the DHS proposal and moving forward with any reforms.
- A reformed DHS grants program must sustain existing emergency response capabilities;
- should support the principles of regionalization and mutual aid between states, regions, and localities;
- the process must engage local stakeholders;
- must allow flexibility with accountability;
- must protect local funding;
- should increase transparency; and
- must continue to support terrorism prevention.
While the DHS conducts this review, Clemmensen recommended that Congress appropriate specific funding levels for each of the homeland security grant programs in the FY 2013 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, including SHSGP, UASI, and MMRS, to ensure that each program is adequately funded.
The complete testimony can be found on the IAFC website.