The Fix in ‘06

Prior to 2001, emergency preparedness meant hazardous materials suits, organized disaster drills and, if necessary, upgrading outdated communications devices. Today, even though these activities have a familiar ring (most of those elements are still in demand in the post-Sept. 11, 2001, context), emergency preparedness, disaster readiness and homeland security seem to have more of an edge. The stakes are higher; the potential loss is greater; and, not to be overlooked, there is more money.
Changes are afoot for the 2006 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill (HR 2360, the text of which is available at www.congress.gov). If first responders want to see any ancillary, day-to-day benefit from their homeland security-funded purchases, they’ll have to get creative because of changes in the way the largest sources of funding may be distributed: The funding trend is toward terrorism preparedness, response and deterrence.
In the 2006 appropriations process, the federal government has further shifted funds from day-to-day emergency response and public safety into programs that are designed specifically to help first responders prepare for, prevent and respond to terrorist incidents. As a result, terrorism is providing the context for most grant-funded purchases and the basis for the stated benefits the agencies are expecting to report as a result.
Case in point: the Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program (LETPP). Grouped in with the other major pass-through state and local Homeland Security programs in the State Homeland Security Grants Program, LETPP allocates $400 million to provide law enforcement with enhanced capabilities for detecting, deterring, disrupting and preventing acts of terrorism. The narrow definition of the program’s purpose is explicit even in the title, and the amount of funding available for the program corresponds to our nation’s heightened sensitivity to terrorist threats and the subsequent prioritization of terrorism prevention.
Nevertheless, the law enforcement community is usually given broad powers to determine how to use the funds (“usually” because each state determines how its local law enforcement agencies will deploy the funds within the confines of the grant’s allowable uses). So depending on the level of threat and vulnerability each community perceives, it may use the funds for a more narrowly defined terrorism-oriented purpose, such as making vulnerable targets more resistant to attack or more difficult to damage (target hardening) or purchasing equipment and training that assists officers in further recognizing a potential or developing threat (threat recognition).
Alternatively,or in conjunction with these uses, grant recipients may also use the dollars to fund projects that will improve information sharing or communications interoperability every day, when there is a terrorist incident (the intended benefit) and when there is not (the ancillary benefit). You’ve probably seen the ancillary benefit rationale used to fund a range of technology and tools that are available today to help first responders do their jobs, whether responding to man-made or natural emergencies.
The top line
Overall, the top line funding amounts for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have remained quite stable, with $1.5 billion appropriated for State Homeland Security, including urban areas; $400 million for LETPP; $200 million for Port Security Grants; $100 million for Rail and Transit Security Grants; and $50 million for Buffer Zone Protection Plan Grants. Holding steady at $180 million, the Emergency Management Preparedness Grants (EMPGs) are a favorite of Congress because they represent an “all-hazards” approach to emergency preparedness that is not present in most of the larger, newer programs within DHS.
The Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program (AFGP) has been reduced for the second year in a row, to $615 million from $715 million in 2005. The $615 million figure includes $550 million for the traditional AFGP grants around the country and $65 million (same as last year) for the SAFER program for recruiting, hiring and training new firefighters. Notwithstanding the reduction in funding for AFGP, the program will likely be administered in much the same way as in years past. And why not? AFGP has continually remained the best-administered grant program in the country because of its transparent, expeditious process, ease of application and high level of technical assistance throughout its life cycle.
Chertoff’s vote of confidence
The most interesting change in the State Homeland Security funding (the “First Responder Funding”) is not in how much is available, which at $1.5 billion is about the same as last year, but rather how that funding is directed by the legislation.
Earlier versions of the appropriation mirrored prior years, with their distinction between state grants and funding for high-threat, high-density urban areas and stated timelines for distributing the money. Since this first iteration as a White House proposal, the 2006 bill has evolved to allocate approximately one-third of the funds for state formula grants, while it places the remainder in the hands of the Secretary of DHS, to distribute at his discretion for “states, urban areas, or regions based on risks; threats; vulnerabilities; and unmet essential capabilities pursuant to Homeland Security Presidential Directive 8 (HSPD–8).” We could be looking at a competitive grant program for homeland security similar to the top-flight Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, with no special set-aside for Urban Area Security Initiative cities and no aggressive timelines.
The president has made no secret of his interest in using quantifiable metrics as the basis of his administration’s decisions. Early on, the focus was education: No Child Left Behind testing, evaluation, assessment toward rewarding success and stimulating development.
Then he turned his attention to homeland security. In 2003, he issued HSPD-8 to “establish policies to strengthen the preparedness of the United States to prevent and respond to threatened or actual domestic terrorist attacks, major disasters, and other emergencies by requiring a national domestic all-hazards preparedness goal [my emphasis], establishing mechanisms for improved delivery of federal preparedness assistance to state and local governments, and outlining actions to strengthen preparedness capabilities of federal, state, and local entities.”
Based on the president’s track record, it was clear that once the metrics had been developed, the numbers would be used for making funding decisions. If you harmonize the HSPD-8 objectives with the new discretion provided to the secretary of DHS, a competitive grant program that evaluates applicants’ objectives against newly developed national goals doesn’t seem far-fetched.
In addition to the measurement issue, the president and Congress have had the delicate, necessary job of eliminating redundancy for those areas where DHS, with its 22 component agencies, overlaps with the function of another agency. The most prominent remaining standout seems to be the Department of Justice, with its direct funding of public safety agencies, communications and law enforcement technology deployment. As a result, we’ve seen a tug of war of sorts, not only to coordinate funding, but also to define the future direction of equipping, training and planning for the nation’s first responders.
If there was a tug of war going on between the departments of Justice and Homeland Security for the role of purveyor of emergency preparedness, response and public safety funding, DHS has certainly put its weight into it,and very effectively.
The president’s budget had completely eliminated the Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) program, probably with the knowledge that Congress would restore some of this formula funding for local police departments. And in the Justice Department (DoJ) appropriation bill, part of HR 2862, Congress did restore funding. At $530 million for JAG, the amount is more than $100 million less than last year’s amount. In addition, COPS (Community Oriented Policing Service) Interoperable Communications Technology grants have been funded at $37.5 million, a reduction of more than 60 percent compared with 2005.
Given the lack of attention the DoJ’s Bureau of Justice Assistance has received, the handwriting may be on the wall, leaving the DoJ’s most robust, powerful (and stable) funding in the National Institute of Justice, where cutting-edge research, development, evaluation and testing of new approaches to policing are supported and shared with communities around the country—and shifting the more operational funding for state and local first responders toward the anti-terrorism-oriented DHS programs.
Other agencies
A number of other homeland security and first responder programs in other agencies (and other appropriations bills) are quietly rolling along through the ’06 process. Under the Department of Agriculture appropriations bill (HR 2744), the agro-terrorism program supports rural first responders. In the Energy and Water bill (HR 2419), the Environmental Protection Agency’s Water Security Program funds monitoring of water supplies for tampering.
The Labor/Health and Human Services (HHS)/Education bill (HR 3010) contains several important homeland security provisions, including two HHS programs for bioterrorism preparedness (one focused on hospitals, the other on public health infrastructure). In addition, the Education Department’s School Emergency Preparedness Planning Grants will support planning and capacity building among schools and their surrounding communities.
In all, it’s another good year for first responders. Of course, the best advice, as always, is to develop your own needs assessments, plans and justifications first, then look for the appropriate funding sources. It may take more time, collaboration and effort, but it’s the best way (and maybe the only way) to ensure that your project generates the desired impact in the areas you need it most. HST
Michael Paddock is CEO of Grants Office LLC in Rochester, NY, a national grants consulting firm specializing in homeland security funding.
Acronyms in this article:
AFGP — Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program
COPS — Community Oriented Policing Service
DHS — Department of Homeland Security
DoJ — Department of Justice
EMPGs — Emergency Management Preparedness Grants
HHS — Department of Health and Human Services
HR — House of Representatives
HSPD–8 — Homeland Security Presidential Directive 8
JAG — Justice Assistance Grants
LETPP — Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program

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