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Thursday, July 25, 2024

DHS Budget: FEMA Funding Request Focused on Climate Resilience, Incident Response

The Federal Emergency Management Agency would see funding increases with a focus on confronting the effects of climate change and building community resilience under President Biden’s budget proposal.

The $52.2 billion net discretionary budget request for DHS in fiscal year 2022, which Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said would “provide DHS with the resources we need to keep our country safe, strong, and prosperous,” places FEMA at the top of the heap, accounting for a 31 percent share of DHS’ $90.8 billion total budget authority followed by Customs and Border Protection at 18 percent.

It comes after President Biden has declared disaster readiness to be an urgent priority, declaring while visiting the FEMA National Response Coordination Center in Washington on May 24 that he was “going to make sure the men and women of FEMA and our other key agencies have everything they need — everything they need, because they’ve got an incredibly difficult job.”

“The budget makes significant investments to confront climate change through pre-disaster planning and resilience efforts, climate resilience grant programs, electrification of the DHS vehicle fleet, and investments into FEMA’s incident response workforce,” DHS said in the budget document.

This includes $500 million in discretionary funding for FEMA’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) competitive grant program, included as part of the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund. In addition to the BRIC funds, the DRF would get an additional $18.8 billion to respond to major disasters.

The DHS Science and Technology Directorate would receive $39 million for community and infrastructure resilience research and development programs. “This funding invests in new and emerging technologies for optimizing FEMA disaster resilience and supports CISA’s mission,” DHS said, adding that $20 million of that is “for collaborative research in climate adaptation and resilience with the new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Climate (ARPA-C) that will be located within the Department of Energy. With this funding, S&T will collaborate with FEMA on mission-related projects in the climate, natural disaster, and community resilience and adaptation space.”

The budget also includes $19 million to ensure the readiness of FEMA’s incident response workforce with recruitment, training, and equipment, and also supports the new FEMA Incident Workforce Academy housed within the Center for Domestic Preparedness. “FIWA will use this funding to provide onboarding, orientation, training, and exercises necessary to ensure incident management personnel are ready, equipped, and mobilized for deployment,” the budget says. “FIWA will also purchase and build out a Multi-Use Facility to provide an experiential training capability critical to ensuring personnel can perform the mission essential tasks that are required when they are deployed to assist disaster survivors.”

FEMA would also get $5 million “to invest in the fruits of climate research that can be used by communities and states to create innovative climate change mitigation projects,” funding that will be “devoted to projects that adequately address climate change and increase community resiliency.”

The $28 billion FEMA budget request is nearly $1.9 billion more than the amount enacted in fiscal year 2021, including more than $532 million more than the previous year to fight climate change.

Funding is centered around three strategic goals: building a culture of preparedness, helping the nation be ready for catastrophic disasters “by strengthening partnerships and accessing new sources of scalable capabilities to quickly meet the needs of overwhelming incidents and focus on the Agency’s workforce to meet the mission,” and cutting the complexity of FEMA programs, policies, and processes “to reduce the administrative and bureaucratic burden impeding delivery of assistance and streamline the survivor experience.”

The request allocates more than $9 billion to continued COVID-19 response and more than $4 billion for ongoing recovery projects related to hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

The budget notes that in FY 2020 the National Response Coordination Center was activated for 210 consecutive days in response to COVID-19 and the record hurricane season — nearly three times the next- longest activation of 77 days in 2017 — and is still ongoing. Earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic, 249 FEMA-organized Project Airbridge flights delivered more than 1.1 billion pieces of personal protective equipment and medical supplies throughout the country.

The agency also integrated federal coordinating officers and federal disaster recovery coordinators into a single FCO title “to ensure all field leaders have a common baseline of required experience and training to improve consistency in disaster program delivery,” and “implemented automated reporting of Federal Information Security Management Act, which allowed cybersecurity staff to focus on remediation versus processing/reporting data.”

The budget request includes increases of $10 million for Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) and $10 million for Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grants. The Flood Hazard Mapping and Risk Analysis Program (Risk MAP) would receive $12.5 million to “support the continued progress on incorporating climatological changes that have occurred to date as well as incorporating future conditions into FEMA flood risk data.” On flood resilience measures, $5 million would go to “help reduce flood damages to Federal investment, protect Federal property, and ultimately, reduce the potential for loss of life from the effects of flooding and climate change.”

Funding of $6 million would be directed to support staffing increases for FEMA Integration Teams (FIT), regional logisticians and planners, and Regional Intelligence Units (RIU) “with a climate and equity focus… RIU staff will manage and analyze data on how the FEMA Regions, as the Agency’s front-line interface with communities, are delivering programs and services. They will be able to assess the extent to which FEMA is delivering programs and services fairly and equitably, make data-informed recommendations for improving how FEMA delivers its programs and services to all individuals and communities, and track the effectiveness of efforts to make improvements.”

Cybersecurity enhancement would receive $26.7 million to help ensure safeguarding of disaster survivors’ data as well as “the variety of information technology (IT) resources that FEMA Emergency Response Officials rely on which are under constant threat of cybersecurity compromise while deployed in disaster locations.”

As FEMA works to modernize its financial systems, the proposal allocates $8.3 million to help “eliminate legacy deficiencies and system gaps by replacing the old system with a solution that can easily integrate or interface to other mixed financial systems including asset management, procurement, and grants management.” The Enterprise Data Analytics Modernization Initiative (EDAMI), a continuing “multiyear effort to enable the agency to work smarter through data analytics and ultimately deliver better outcomes for survivors and communities,” would receive $6 million as the project moves through its pilot phase.

Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a terrorism analyst and security consultant with a specialty in online open-source extremist propaganda, incitement, recruitment, and training. She hosts and presents in Homeland Security Today law enforcement training webinars studying a range of counterterrorism topics including conspiracy theory extremism, complex coordinated attacks, critical infrastructure attacks, arson terrorism, drone and venue threats, antisemitism and white supremacists, anti-government extremism, and WMD threats. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15 and a private investigator. Bridget is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera, BBC and SiriusXM.

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