Of course, this question extends well beyond that of funding and becomes a philosophical discussion of which agencies, institutions and even individuals are responsible for homeland security and emergency response.
The National Infrastructure Protection Plan identifies the parties as “Federal Sector-Specific Agencies and other Federal, State, local, tribal and private sector security partners,” including owner/operators of critical infrastructure and key resources and their employees. Depending on how literally you wish to interpret the definition of “critical infrastructure,” this could include every government employee and half the private sector, as well. A DHS introduction to the National Preparedness Goal and National Response Plan states that “all levels of government, the private sector and non-governmental agencies must be prepared to prevent, protect against, respond to and recover from a wide spectrum of major events that exceed the capabilities of any single entity.”
In other words: everyone.
In their effort to keep preparedness inclusive, policymakers have made the ecosystem of response too broad to clearly distinguish who is supposed to be involved and who may be able to contribute.
Back to the beginning
This situation hearkens back to the very beginnings of homeland security funding, when the purpose of the funding was to prevent, deter and respond to a terrorist attack. As other emergencies outpaced terrorist attacks, and as DHS began to replace, in whole or part, redundant programs in the Department of Justice, DHS became more all-hazards in its orientation, until today one might never know that it started with a narrow focus on terrorism. It has instead become a catch-all with an impossibly broad range of hazards to address with the available funding. Contrast that to the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, a well-run and focused program that equals the State Homeland Security Program in dollars, but far exceeds it in impact and accountability. The difference, of course, is focus—on fire departments and emergency medical services (EMS) agencies, rather than on the entire ecosystem.
So how can an agency, seeking to collaborate with as many relevant agencies as possible, identify those that truly belong in its ecosystem?
There is no single answer for all communities. Some communities may need to coordinate snow plow resources, while others—located where fresh water is not readily available—may have to put in place emergency water interties to allow metered access to reserves.
Whatever your specific situation, the best place to start identifying your ecosystem is by examining your existing local emergency response plan and standing mutual aid agreements.
Schools, hospitals, EMS agencies, mental health service providers, transportation resources and even emergency food banks are all probably mentioned in your local plan, but they may have never really participated in the planning or execution of emergency response. You’ll have to be prepared to use the funding that is available to engage with these agencies and bring them to the planning table and your tabletop exercises, but you may be surprised at the funding they can access to help them participate. School readiness, water and agro-security, food supply security planning and capacity building are all funded by sources within the federal government.
Once you define the response ecosystem for your community and begin to engage each of the relevant agencies in a coordinated local and regional emergency management strategy, you’ll not only be eligible to obtain the funding each of the participants can acquire individually but you’ll also be more likely to attract broader, farther reaching funding that can make the whole greater than the sum of its parts.
Ultimately, with the homeland security SAAs administering the PSIC grants, the funds will likely go to the same agencies that receive most of the homeland security grants now—police, fire and county emergency management agencies. But by reaching out to others in your community, you’ll increase the effectiveness of the funds you do receive and continue to build a much more robust communitywide response capability. HST
Michael Paddock is CEO of Grants Office LLC. He can be reached at MPaddock@grantsoffice.com.