February 28, 2003 | News Releases on Department of Homeland Security
WASHINGTON, FEB. 27, 2003-When it comes to funding our "first responders"-the police, firefighters, emergency medical teams who respond first to a terrorist attack-how much is enough?
That's what many federal lawmakers are asking as requests for more money come pouring in, from $3 billion for the International Association of Fire Fighters and $7 billion for the National League of Cities to $9 billion for the National Conference of State Legislators-atop the $3.5 billion Congress recently approved for homeland security.
A better question, according to a new paper from The Heritage Foundation: How would the money be spent? Because, unless Congress stops devoting money to questionable programs and gives the Department of Homeland Security the authority it needs to make funding decisions, much of the money will be wasted, says policy analyst Michael Scardaville.
"Consider what Congress did with the $3.5 billion," he says. "It gave $1.5 billion to Justice Department programs that cover traditional policing, such as the Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS. That left only $2 billion for first responders-and only half of that amount is available for the DHS to use as it sees fit."
Scardaville recommends a two-step process to ensure that money earmarked for first responders is spent wisely. First, all federal grants for this purpose should be consolidated into a single, flexible program in the Department of Homeland Security. To receive funds, states would have to submit an application outlining an "all-hazards response plan" that explains how they intend to work with local communities in the event of an attack.
Second, Congress should direct the DHS to evaluate, six months after all domestic preparedness grants are consolidated into one program, if the $3.5 billion has been well spent. The department should then report to Congress on how the needs of America's communities are being met, Scardaville says. "Meeting the needs of first responders will require an ongoing commitment, so DHS should repeat this process every year," he says.