One of the more prominent trends in homeland security funding over the past two years has been the focus on larger urban areas. Cities are receiving funds for infrastructure protection, interoperability and homeland security, among many other purposes, and the Implementing the 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act of 2007, which became law in August, promises increasing funding to the cities, even as broader-based homeland security funding is held at current levels.
The list of cities may evolve every year, but for the foreseeable future, funding will continue to flow to those on one or more of the funders’ lists of high-threat, high-density urban areas, metropolitan statistical areas, ports of national significance, etc.
Given that the preponderance of targets of terrorist activity are in the cities and that, in 2000, 80.3 percent of Americans lived in metropolitan areas, according to the Census Bureau, that would seem to make sense. But the needs and capabilities of cities differ greatly from the needs of the rest of the country, in terms of their ability to accommodate and administer the funding effectively and in terms of the interconnectedness of various response agencies. With cities, everything is denser, and risks, like the risk of a chain of events caused by a single incident, rise dramatically with higher populations.
Coordinate, coordinate, coordinate
The pat answer to most challenges facing urban homeland security leaders is more coordination. From the top down, the National Infrastructure Protection Plan devotes 196 pages to coordination (though its high-level guidelines are not specific to cities).
Funding is no exception. It needs to be coordinated everywhere for maximum impact, but the need for coordination is most acute in the cities, where nearly every federal funding agency is lining up to support a cadre of city agencies that may be involved in a response, adding to the usual list housing authorities, environmental services, hospitals, schools, nonprofits and utilities.Funds are flowing directly to these agencies, often with little or no acknowledgement of the fact that other agencies in the city, protecting the same people against the same threats, are also receiving funds from other agencies.
It’s probably generally known by now that the Department of Homeland Security requires potential recipients to document how they will be coordinating funding and to submit plans for coordination, ostensibly including funding coordination. In the past, though, these requirements have applied to only a very narrow list of funding sources – the sources available to first responders nationwide. Cities may receive funding from twice as many funders or more, depending on the involvement of the private sector, and these all need to be coordinated to avoid duplication of effort and incompatible projects, which are both counterproductive and potentially embarrassing.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
Coordination starts with communication. The Urban Area Working Groups (UAWG) have been formed specifically for the purpose of coordinating homeland security efforts in the cities, and many of them are working hard to cast a broader net for involvement from around their communities. The Clark County, Nevada Working Group includes the Nevada Broadcasters Association, which is a good start, but most other UAWGs simply include municipal representatives from the area, entirely made up of police, fire and emergency management agency representatives. These are, of course, the most logical agencies to have lead the planning, but they do not represent the complexity in response (and by extension the complexity in funding) that faces the nation’s 50 largest municipalities, in particular, and all other urban areas to some degree.
In order to achieve real coordination of funding, the urban areas need to identify who is eligible to receive grants for projects that contribute to an overall emergency response capability, and they need to keep tabs on the grant applications that are being written by these agencies. Tools from companies like Grants Office exist to help facilitate this type of coordination, providing visibility into the grant programs to which various agencies are planning to apply, but with or without the assistance of technology, a process that provides a steady flow of information about agency grantseeking, ideally facilitated by a county grants coordinator, is essential.
As with most efforts at coordination, organizing grantseeking across your community will be an ongoing process, where success is measured in incremental improvements toward a visionary goal. But if you make it your aim to continuously improve the communication and adoption of the process, you’ll find progressively fewer projects falling through the cracks and a significant improvement in the synergy of funded projects.