Today, Chief Jim Critchley of the Tucson Fire Department and president of the Western Fire Chiefs Association (WFCA) testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Science, Space and Technology’s Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation. In his testimony, Critchley, representing the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) and WFCA, supported the authorization of adequate funding for the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) through 2017.
Rep. Ben Quayle (R-AZ) and Ranking Member Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) presided over the hearing whose topic was Working for a Fire Safe America: Examining United States Fire Administration Priorities. The authorization for USFA expires on September 30, 2012, and Congress has to reauthorize long-term funding levels for the agency.
“[USFA’s] FY 2011 budget of only $45 million is not a large federal spending program,” said Critchley. “However, the agency plays an effective role in the inherently governmental function of protecting the American public.”
The IAFC’s message was to urge the House Committee to introduce legislation to authorize $76.49 million for the USFA through FY 2017, similar to current legislation that has been introduced in the U.S. Senate. Critchley stressed the unique role the USFA plays in national policy, training, research and large-scale response.
In his testimony, he drew on his personal experience with USFA programs like the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) and the National Fire Academy (NFA) to emphasize how investment in these functions directly supports effective and efficient operations in local communities.
“As a local fire service instructor, the NFA provides educational material based on national best practices to help me train the next generation of fire service leaders,” said Critchley. “This common training provides interoperability at the incident scene of many national disasters.”
He added that national data collection and analysis through NFIRS supports informed decision making in assessing and preparing for threats to his local community.
Critchley also took the opportunity to look beyond the specific funding issues to address the larger role of the USFA in national response efforts. Specifically, he mentioned taking measures to clarify that the USFA is the lead agency in Emergency Support Function (ESF) #4 for incidents that don’t involve wildland fires, and supporting USFA’s plans to establish teams of firefighters that can quickly deploy in the event of a major disaster or incident of national significance.
The complete testimony is available online.