Council of Foreign Relations (Rudman)
William R. Cumming
At the end of June, the Council of Foreign Relations released
their report, Emergency Responders: Drastically Underfunded,
Dangerously Unprepared. The report focused on the equipment and funding of
so-called first responders (a term first used and adopted in the United States
Fire Administration in the late 70ís and early 80ís.) The task force identified
two major obstacles hampering America's first responder efforts. First, because
there are no technical preparedness standards, it is difficult to know what is
needed and how much it costs. Second, funding for emergency responders has been
sidetracked and stalled due to a politicized appropriations process, slowness in
the distribution of the funds by federal agencies, and bureaucratic red tape at
all levels of government.
To address the lack of standards and good numbers, the Task
Force makes the following recommendations:
year funding" is very
- Congress should require that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
work with state and local agencies and officials and emergency responder
professional associations to establish clearly defined standards and
guidelines for emergency preparedness. These standards must be sufficiently
flexible to allow local officials to set priorities based on their needs,
provided that they reach nationally-determined preparedness levels within a
fixed time period. It should be noted, however, that since standard setting
can be construed as regulation, it is unknown how much authority DHS has to
set standards, but some commentators state DHS has no authority to do so.
- Congress should require that the DHS and the Department of Health and
Human Services submit a coordinated plan for meeting identified national
preparedness standards by the end of FY07. The DHS pursuant to its organic
legislation is revising the old federal planning for emergency response,
principally the Federal Response Plan and National Contingency Plan for Oil
Spills and Hazardous Materials Releases into a new National Response Plan.
The implementation target date is January 1st, 2005.
- Congress should establish a system for allocating scarce budget
resources based less on dividing the spoils and more on addressing
identified threats and vulnerabilities. To do this, the Federal government
should consider such factors as population, population density,
vulnerability assessment, and presence of critical infrastructure within
each state. State governments should be required to use the same criteria
for distributing funds within each state.
- Congress should establish within DHS a National Institute for Best
Practices in Emergency Preparedness to work with state and local
governments, emergency preparedness professional associations, and other
partners to share best practices and lessons learned.
- Congress should make emergency responder grants in FY04 and thereafter
on a multi-year basis to facilitate long-term planning and training. The
ability to get so-called
To deal with the problem of appropriated funds being
sidetracked and stalled on their way to Emergency Responders, the Task Force
- The U.S. House of Representatives should transform the House Select
Committee on Homeland Security into a standing committee and give it a
formal, leading role in the authorization of all emergency responder
expenditures in order to streamline the federal budgetary process.
- The U.S. Senate should consolidate emergency preparedness and response
oversight into the Senate Government Affairs Committee. The Senate did agree
to a single DHS appropriation bill (both the Senate and House have passed a
version that will go to conference after the August recess). But it is very
unlikely that a single committee will be given control in the 109th
Congress over both the DHS and the statutes that it administers.
- Congress should require the DHS to work with other federal agencies to
streamline homeland security grants to reduce unnecessary duplication and to
establish coordinated "one-stop shopping" for state and local authorities
- States should develop a prioritized list of requirements in order to
ensure that federal funding is allocated to achieve the best possible return
on investments. Congress should ensure that all future appropriations
bills for emergency responders include strict distribution timelines. These
suggestions reflect current deficiencies and may see some fixes by FY 2005.
- The DHS should move the Office of Domestic Preparedness from the Bureau
of Border and Transportation Security to the Office of State and Local
Government Coordination in order to consolidate oversight of grants to
emergency responders within the office of the Secretary. This comment was
directed to the oddity that the Office of Domestic Preparedness (ODP),
transferred from the Department of Justice, is not in the Emergency
Preparedness and Response Directorate. This office has the response to
terrorism mission while EP&R has the response to all other events mission, a
split that makes no sense except to reflect the parentage of the
organization (ODP) as not being FEMA.