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by Josh Filler: Homeland security issues including prevention and protection

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February 2011 Archives
February 14, 2011

It’s no secret the U.S. Government has been running its largest annual budget deficits in history, $1.5 trillion in FY 2011, all the while amassing over $14 trillion in total national debt. The new Congress, particularly the Republican controlled House of Representatives, is determined to significantly cut discretionary spending this fiscal year and beyond. How this will impact DHS homeland security grants to states and localities is unclear.

What is clear is that since the creation of the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) program and other DHS grants, states and localities have not done a particularly good job of educating Congress and the public on the significant benefits these programs provide to our nation’s security. This may result in the UASI program and other homeland security grants facing cuts in FY 2011 and 2012 as Washington attempts to right it wayward fiscal ship. Such a result is not preordained.

All federal grant programs have constituencies that benefit from such programs – law enforcement, fire service, emergency management, public health, transportation, etc. In most cases these constituencies are organized nationally for a number of reasons, not least of which to educate and advocate before Congress and the Administration on behalf of their programs.

For example, emergency managers, as part of the National Emergency Management Association and International Association of Emergency Managers, lobby hard for Emergency Management Performance Grants; the fire service through the International Association of Fire Chiefs and the International Association of Fire Fighters support the Assistance to Firefighter Grants; and law enforcement through the International Association of Chiefs of Police and National Sheriffs Association, among others, for Community Oriented Policing grants, etc. Not so when it comes to most homeland security grants. There is no nationally organized group representing homeland security directors at the State level and/or UASI managers at the local level.

Today, individual States and UASI jurisdictions often advocate on homeland security issues in a vacuum focusing on a specific member of their Congressional delegation or member of the Administration. This fragmented approach fails to present a unified national position on key issues. States and Urban Areas simply do not take advantage of the basic premise of “strength in numbers.” Thus, homeland security professionals lack the ability to adequately influence policy on a national scale in Washington, DC including, for example, fully funding the UASI program at authorized levels.

There may now be an opportunity to change this. Starting in 2005, several Urban Areas started an annual UASI conference to share information and best practices. The 2011 National UASI Conference is being held in San Francisco in June. Recently, the conference has organized as a non-profit under the Internal Revenue Code. This annual conference and the people it brings together serve as an excellent foundation to build a National Homeland Security Association (NHSA) focused on ensuring that the voices of the Urban Areas, States and other homeland security officials are heard in the federal policy and budget-making process.

A NHSA would provide a network for homeland security professionals to share best practices; coordinate on projects; respond to specific informational and analytical requests from the association’s members; serve as a clearinghouse for information about Congressional and Administration policy, funding and legislative developments; and serve as a liaison to the homeland security business community, etc.

At this moment, some States and UASI regions, such as California and the San Francisco Bay Area UASI, are trying to educate Congress and organize other UASI regions. As California and the Bay Area move to build momentum, it’s important for other UASI’s and States to support them. The cause of supporting the UASI program is not hard to sell. It’s simply a matter of educating policy makers, the media and the public at large on the benefits it and other homeland security grant programs provide, as opposed to the usual drumbeat in the media that the grant funds haven’t been spent fast enough.

The UASI and other homeland security grants have been invaluable in building not only local, regional and statewide capabilities and collaboration, but also national level resources to prevent, protect against, respond to and recover from threats and acts of terrorism and other catastrophic hazards. This includes intelligence fusion centers, critical infrastructure protection programs, urban search and rescue teams, regional planning, and statewide exercises involving local, state, tribal and federal participants. The grant programs have brought cities, counties, tribes, states and federal partners together in ways no other programs before or since have. Such benefits and capabilities simply would not exist without these grant programs and will dissipate without them.

Congress has tough decisions to make about where to cut the federal budget. As it makes those decisions, it needs to be accurately informed about which programs work and those that don’t. The House Republicans have said they do not want to impose across the board spending cuts, as such an approach wrongly treats all federal programs the same in terms of their value. With the UASI program and other homeland security grants, States and Urban Areas should have a sympathetic ear in Congress if the States and Urban Areas can speak with a compelling and unified voice. >

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February 16, 2011

It is odd to be discussing the proposed Federal FY 2012 budget while the FY 2011 budget remains in limbo or what we in Washington call a CR (continuing resolution). Despite no FY 2011 budget, on Monday, the Obama Administration released its proposed FY 2012 budget of which roughly $3.8 billion is slated for state and local homeland security grants and programs. 

For 2012, the Obama Administration proposes cutting approximately $300 million from the FY 2010 grant budget (the last Congressionally enacted appropriation for DHS). While the cuts to the grants are real, the FY 2012 grant budget is a very reasonable proposal given the current state of the national debt and annual deficits. Some programs actually see an increase while others are slated for termination. The following is a summary of the key elements of the President’s FY 2012 proposed budget and what it means.

The Homeland Security Grant Program

The Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP) is the largest of the grants and consists of four independent grant programs: Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI), State Homeland Security Program (SHSP), Metropolitan Medical Response System (MMRS), and Citizen Corps Program (CCP). While UASI at $920 million, SHSP at $1 billion and CCP at $13 million are each slated for an increase in funding over FY 2010 actual appropriations, MMRS is put on the chopping block for termination with its program elements rolled into SHSP. The effects of zeroing out MMRS are several.

First, by zeroing out MMRS and rolling it into SHSP, the Administration could actually reduce the net increase of its proposed SHSP funding by $39 million, which has been the annual appropriation for MMRS for several years. That assumes that the States would actually spend $39 million on MMRS activities, which is something the States may or may not do under the President’s budget.

Second, in the past, MMRS has been a targeted grant insofar as the cities or MMRS jurisdictions were predetermined for funding and have developed MMRS committees and other infrastructure to manage the program. Whether these committees would stay in existence is impossible to know for sure, but most likely several would not as the funds would be managed by the States with no statutory requirement to fund the MMRS jurisdictions (DHS may have the authority to carve out funding administratively).

Third, the Obama Administration is not the first to try and zero out MMRS. For several years the Bush Administration tried to do the same thing only to have Congress reject the proposal and fund MMRS as a stand alone program. My money is on Congress stepping in and doing the same this year although it may be a closer call than in years past given the budget crisis.

While the Administration has proposed once again to end MMRS as a stand alone program, it has reversed itself on doing the same to the CCP. In the President’s proposed FY 2011 budget, CCP was slated for termination along with MMRS and several other programs. Not so in FY 2012 where CCP is set for a small increase. One suspects this is based on the priority FEMA and the Administration have now given to community preparedness and resiliency, which likely spared CCP from the guillotine during the Administration’s internal budget deliberations.

Infrastructure Protection Grants

Along with UASI and SHSP, the infrastructure protection grants – Transit Security Grant Program (TSGP), the Port Security Grant Program (PSGP) and the Buffer Zone Protection Program (BZPP) are the other big winners under the President’s proposed budget. For 2012, both TSGP and PSGP are funded at $300 million each (a $16 million increase for each program) with BZPP coming in at $50 million, a $2 million increase over prior years.

Border Security Grants

Operation Stonegarden, the program designed to fund state and local border security operations in coordination with the U.S. Border Patrol, is funded at $50 million, a $10 million cut from the FY 2010 actual appropriation. 

Firefighting Grants

At $670 million, the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program takes a $106 million haircut compared to what it received in FY 2010.  However, the $670 million request for FY 2012 is a $60 million increase beyond what the Administration asked for in FY 2011 ($610 million) for the AFG program. The AFG is the third largest grant program among all the grants now managed by DHS.

Emergency Management Grants

The Emergency Management Performance Grant (EMPG) does well under the President’s proposal at $350 million, which is a $12 million increase over the FY 2010 actual appropriation. Given that EMPG itself was once on the chopping block several years ago it has come a long way and is now among the largest grants managed by DHS.

The Grant Graveyard

In addition to MMRS, the Administration is proposing to send several grants the way of the dodo bird. They are: the Interoperable Emergency Communications Grant Program (IECGP), the Regional Catastrophic Preparedness Grant Program (RCPGP), Driver’s License Security or Real ID grants, Emergency Operations Center (EOC) grants, and a hand full of other smaller programs. All of these grants, except for the RCPGP, were also pegged for termination in the Administration’s FY 2011 proposed budget. As then, the Administration seeks to roll up the activities funded by these grants under the SHSP, which is set to receive an increase in funding. However, by rolling these programs into the SHSP, the Administration’s “increase” in funding for SHSP begins to drop in real terms as activities once funded under separate grants are now set to eat into the funding pie under SHSP on top of the previously funded SHSP activities. Assuming the President’s proposal comes to fruition, roughly $238 million in activities previously funded under the terminated grants will now fall under SHSP if those activities are to be funded at all.

While I agree with the Administration’s proposal to eliminate the EOC, Driver’s License/Real ID, IECGP and the other smaller programs, I have concerns with the decision to eliminate RCPGP and MMRS. Both RCPGP and MMRS require integrated planning and other activities that foster regional collaboration and capabilities that may otherwise not exist. In other words, it’s not simply a matter of rolling the activities allowable under each grant into SHSP, but rather, ensuring the funding and infrastructure created to manage the programs is sustained as well.

While sustainment of that infrastructure is possible by rolling the MMRS and RCPGP into SHSP, it is not clear from the Administration’s proposal that it will happen. As for the cost of keeping MMRS and RCPGP - $39 million for MMRS and $34 million for RCPGP – Congress could offset the costs by spreading a $73 million cut across EMPG, AFG, TSGP and PSGP, which would have little negative impact on any of those programs. That $73 million could be used to fund MMRS and RCPGP as stand alone grants or as carve outs in SHSP with clear direction in SHSP grant guidance to maintain the projects and infrastructure currently in place. 

Going Forward

While cutting nearly $300 million from FY 2010 actual spending, the FY 2012 proposed homeland security grant budget is reasonable and could have been a lot worse for States and localities. However, deeper cuts could be enacted, as the President’s numbers are simply the opening salvo in a long and twisted dance between the Executive and Legislative branches of government. A dance so twisted it’s still ongoing concerning the FY 2011 budget. The FY 2012 budget won’t be passed before October 1, 2011 (if it’s passed at all) and a lot can change between now and then as we gear up for the 2012 presidential election.

Finally, the following is a link to the Administration’s FY 2012 DHS proposed budget released on Monday. The grants are listed on page 537. 


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