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The Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, & Emergency Management
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure

Hearing on How to Best Prepare for Acts of Terror: National Preparedness and First Responder Funding



The Subcommittee will meet on Thursday, May 13, 2004 at 12 p.m. in room 2253 Rayburn House Office Building for an oversight hearing on How to Best Prepare for Acts of Terror: National Preparedness and Funding for First Responders.


History of Emergency Management

The concept of preparing for disasters and emergencies is not a new one in the United States. In fact, the story of our founding incorporates this idea. The story of “one if by land, two if by sea” represents one of the earliest efforts by the American republic to prepare its citizenry for emergencies. Over time, this concept has progressed. During the Cold War, there was developed the Emergency Alert System, air raid sirens, and other warning devices to alert communities to impending disaster. Americans were advised to store food and water, and there was a booming industry in emergency shelters. All of these things are ways in which individuals prepared. To support these efforts, communities created civil defense teams, which were never used because of attacks on the United States, but were used to deal with floods, earthquakes, fires, tornadoes, and other disasters. This was the birth of the “national preparedness” effort in the United States.

Over time, as the threat of the Cold War subsided and America began to face new challenges, the civil defense system changed, and began focusing its efforts to prepare American communities for natural disasters, accidents, and other man-caused catastrophes. As these efforts changed on the local level, so did the efforts of the federal government. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter signed Executive Order 12148, which created the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). At its inception, FEMA was created to consolidate and coordinate the efforts of over 15 different agencies and departments that were responsible for responding to and preparing for disasters. FEMA was tasked with carrying out the authorities contained in the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. §5121 et. seq., as amended) (Stafford Act), which is an amalgamation of previous disaster acts.

Development of All-Hazards Preparedness

Along with the newly created Agency came a new and emerging concept, that communities did not need a separate preparedness and response system for each kind of threat. While the manner in which a community responds may differ based on the disaster at hand, sending firefighters to deal with wildfires, sandbagging crews to fight flooding, and police for civil disturbance, at its core, the management of these disasters is virtually the same. No matter what disaster was being faced, a community would still need to prepare its citizens for the possibility of a lack of municipal services such as water, sewer and electricity; someone would need to be in charge to coordinate efforts; as well as a myriad of other activities that must go on to support the disaster response. Further, governments recognized that the core emergency management authorities and procedures must be clear, concise and established in advance of a disaster; improvisation during a disaster crisis does not work. An effective All-Hazards approach means that a community or government will have an integrated and coordinated response system that is prepared to handle any disaster that may arise. It assumes that while the specific assets deployed may differ based on the type of disaster, the system that a community uses to respond to the disaster will not.

Since 1976 there have been over 1,100 presidential disaster declarations in the United States and the Insular Territories. These disasters have been caused by every natural disaster, accident and other man-caused events imaginable, including terrorism. As each of these disasters has occurred, the emergency response community has drawn lessons learned, and adapted the preparedness and response system to incorporate these lessons. Over 25 years of experience has resulted in the establishment of a comprehensive, All-Hazards emergency management system at the federal, state and local levels.

The federal government has also incorporated these lessons, and in April of 1992, published the Federal Response Plan (FRP). The FRP, which is comprised of six sections, addresses every aspect of how the federal government will respond to a disaster. The Basic Plan establishes the policies and concept of operations for the federal response, the Emergency Support Function (ESF) Annexes describe the mission, policies, and responsibilities of the primary and support agencies for such areas as transportation, communications, and public works, the Recovery Function Annex guides the provision of assistance to individuals and communities to, the Support Annexes guide those related activities necessary to support disaster operation, the Incident Annexes address specific events requiring a unified response, and the Appendices address the management of the plan itself.

The FRP identifies the functional responsibilities of each agency and department of the federal government. The FRP outlines the ESF and establishes both lead and support federal agencies for each ESF. By incorporating and consolidating its disaster preparedness plans into one consolidated plan, the FRP adopts the principle of All-Hazards emergency management.

Transition from FEMA to Homeland Security

In 2002, the authorities contained in the Stafford Act, as well as the personnel and assets of FEMA were transferred to the newly created Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as part of the reorganization of the federal government mandated by the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-296). As a part of this reorganization, FEMA was merged with 21 other departments and agencies and the majority of FEMA’s functions were placed in the Emergency Preparedness and Response Directorate (EP&R). An amendment to the legislation required that DHS was to retain the statutory mission of FEMA, which at the time was, “To reduce the loss of life and property and protect our institutions from all hazards by leading and supporting the Nation in a comprehensive risk-based emergency management program of mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery.”

The All-Hazards principle, which has been at the core of the federal preparedness effort for many years, has become the guiding principle adopted by the Administration for the new Department of Homeland Security, as indicated by Homeland Security Presidential Directives 5 and 8, and the development of the National Response Plan, itself an All-Hazards plan. This approach recognizes that the most efficient way to prepare a community for a disaster, of whatever type, is to develop an emergency management plan that will allow that community to respond to every disaster.

Homeland Security Presidential Directive 5 – Management of Domestic Incidents

Released by the White House on February 28, 2003, the primary purpose of Homeland Security Presidential Directive 5 (HSPD-5) is to, “…establish a single, comprehensive approach to domestic incident management.” The National Incident Management System (NIMS) is intended to, “provide a consistent nationwide approach for Federal, State, and local governments to work effectively and efficiently together to prepare for, respond to, and recover from domestic incidents, regardless of cause, size, or complexity.” It is the expectation of DHS that the NIMS will eventually become the adopted standard for preparedness nationwide.

National Response Plan

The National Response Plan (NRP) is in its final stages of drafting, and will be released sometime in the fall of 2004. HSPD-5 requires the National Response Plan to, “integrate Federal Government domestic prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery plans into one all-discipline, all-hazards plan.” The NRP incorporates and replaces the Federal Response Plan, Domestic Terrorism Concept of Operations Plan, Interim National Response Plan, Federal Radiological Emergency Response Plan, the Spills Concept of Operations Plan, as well as several other lesser-known plans.

Homeland Security Presidential Directive 8 – National Preparedness

The purpose of HSPD-8 is 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, 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.”


Delay in delivery of First Responder Funding

Since September 11th, 2001, the federal government has made over $8 billion available to State and local governments for preparedness. A number of State and local officials have complained that they are not receiving this money in a timely fashion. In response to these complaints, the DHS Inspector General launched an investigation into these complaints, and in March of this year, reported its findings.

This report, titled, “An Audit of Distributing and Spending ‘First Responder’ Grant Funds” examined the complaints of State and local officials relating to these grant programs. The review found that while a majority of the awarded funds had not yet been received by the recipients, much of this delay was due to a lack of clear spending plans by the recipients, as well as the fact that the programs are all run on a reimbursable basis, and many of the recipients do not have available funds to make the initial outlay. However, the IG did report a number of management delays in approval of expenditures at the federal level, but that these problems were mostly due to the volume of funds at issue, and the newness of the program.

All-Hazards versus Terrorism Specific Preparedness and Response System

On October 8, 2003, the Chairman of the Select Committee on Homeland Security, Christopher Cox, introduced H.R. 3266, the “Faster and Smarter Funding for First Responders Act of 2003” (the Cox bill).

Unlike the existing all-hazards system or HSPD-5 and -8, H.R. 3266 would require the establishment of separate first responder essential capabilities and training and equipment standards focused solely on terrorism, as well as a separate State preparedness plan focused on the threat of terrorism.

Unlike current law and practice, H.R. 3266 would allocate first responder grants (excluding COPS, FIRE and Emergency Management Performance (EMPG) grants) exclusively on the basis of terrorism risk and vulnerability. Current law guarantees each state a minimum funding amount and then allocates the remaining funds on the basis of population and risk.

Unlike current practice and planning requirements, H.R. 3266 allows for the direct funding of regions. A “Region” is defined as 2 or more governments (at any level) with a combined population of 1.65 million people or at least 20,000 square miles, or any other combination of contiguous local governmental units certified by the Secretary of DHS. DHS and states are concerned this provision would allow a Region to circumvent the State planning process and pursue grants directly, with only a perfunctory review by the State to ensure consistency.

Under the provisions of this bill, these funds would only be available for terrorism preparedness efforts, including training, equipment, and other, terrorism only, uses. During the first two years there is no matching requirement, but after that, States would be required to provide a 25% match of federal funds. These programs are approximately $3.5 billion per year. As a comparison, approximately $1 billion per year is appropriated for all other preparedness programs including FIRE grants ($750 million in FY’04) and EMPG grants ($250 million in FY’04). Additionally, there is no requirement of consistency or coordination with other preparedness plans in place at the State or local level.

The effect of the Cox bill is to create two separate systems, one for terrorism, the other for other disasters. These funding streams would be operated separately, with no requirement for coordination with other preparedness programs, and could, in many cases, overlap. Communities would have to develop a preparedness plan for terrorism in order to receive terrorism grants and a second plan to address non-terror threats for other preparedness funds.


Panel I

Mr. William Jenkins
Director of Homeland Security and Justice
The General Accounting Office

Mr. Andrew Mitchell
Deputy Director
Office of Domestic Preparedness
U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Mr. George W. Foresman
Assistant to the Governor for Commonwealth Preparedness
Commonwealth of Virginia