White House Releases Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Proposal

(May 25, 2017) – On Tuesday, the White House released President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget proposal. The $4.1 trillion spending plan includes $44.1 billion in funding for the Department of Homeland Security.

The spending plan requests $688,688,000 for the Assistance to Firefighters and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant programs, split evenly between the two programs. This is a slight reduction from the $690 million Congress appropriated for the programs in the current fiscal year.  The budget proposal also requests $43,410,000 for the United States Fire Administration (USFA), with $1,497,000 of that request targeted for infrastructure improvements at USFA’s Emmitsburg, MD campus.  Congress appropriated $44 million for USFA in Fiscal Year 2017.

While these programs only saw slight reductions in the Administration’s budget, several other programs of importance to the nation’s fire and emergency services were recommended for much more severe cuts.  The spending plan only requests $27.513 million for the Urban Search and Rescue System, down from the $38.280 appropriated for Fiscal Year 2017.  

The State Homeland Security Grant Program and the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) would both see a 25% cut if the President’s plan is enacted.  The Administration is also recommending a 25% non-federal match be implemented for the two grant programs.  The Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) grant program, which provides matching funds to volunteer fire departments to purchase equipment and training for use in wildland fire suppression, would be reduced from $15 million to $11.6 million under the plan.  

“As the saying goes, the President proposes and the Congress disposes,” said Bill Webb, Executive Director of the Congressional Fire Services Institute.  “Now that the White House has released its FY2018 budget proposal, we’ll turn our attention to Capitol Hill where we will advocate for sufficient funding levels for these programs.  With call volumes rising across the nation and heightened concerns about potential threats to our safety and security, this is not the time to cut programs that benefit our nation’s fire service.”  

The release of the White House budget proposal is only the first step in the Fiscal Year 2018 budget process.  Committees in both the House and the Senate have begun holding hearings to review the budget proposal, and the House and Senate Appropriations Committees will now begin drafting funding bills for the individual departments of the federal government. CFSI will continue to provide updates throughout the Fiscal Year 2018 process.    

Chief Keith Bryant to be Appointed U.S. Fire Administrator

(May 25, 2017) – On May 18th, President Donald Trump announced his intention to appoint Chief Keith Bryant as the next Administrator of the United States Fire Administration.  Chief Bryant is currently the chief of the Oklahoma City Fire Department.

He is a former president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), past president of the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association, and past president of the Oklahoma Fire Chiefs Association (OFCA). He is also a member of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and currently serves on the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation’s Advisory Committee and the Advisory Board for the Municipal Fire Protection Program (OSU-OKC).  In 2006, Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry appointed him to the Oklahoma State Fire Marshal Commission.

“On behalf of the Congressional Fire Services Institute’s Board of Directors, I would like to congratulate Chief Bryant on his appointment to this important position.  He’s a highly respected leader who will bring to the position a level of experience and knowledge needed to guide USFA in its mission,” said Dr. William Jenaway, President of the CFSI Board of Directors.  

House Hearing Spotlights Fire Service Occupational Cancer

(May 18, 2017) – On Wednesday, May 17th, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health held a hearing titled “Examining Initiatives to Advance Public Health.”  The hearing addressed several current pieces of legislation before the committee, including H.R. 931, the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act.  

H.R. 931,  introduced by Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27), directs the Center for Disease Control to create a specialized national registry to provide researchers and epidemiologists with the tools and resources they need to improve research collection activities related to the monitoring of cancer incidence among firefighters.  Kevin O’Connor, Assistant to the General President for Governmental Affairs and Public Policy at the International Association of Fire Fighters, testified in favor of the bill.

“Our nation is served by approximately one million professional and volunteer fire fighters who respond to nearly 35 million calls for assistance each year.  Statistics maintained by the National Fire Protection Association indicate that there are approximately two million fires or hazardous materials incidents annually, routinely placing fire fighters in environments where they will be exposed to carcinogens and toxic chemicals,” Mr. O’Connor stated in his testimony.  He went on further to say that the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act “will lead to a preeminent centralized data collection point that will aid in studies that we expect to result in better prevention and treatment measures for fire fighters.”

Senator Robert Menendez (NJ) introduced companion legislation, S. 382, in the Senate on February 15, 2017.   

Congress Passes Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Improvement Act

(May 18, 2017) – This week, Congress passed legislation designed to improve the timeliness and transparency in the Justice Department’s processing of the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program survivor, disability, and educational assistance claims.  S. 419, the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Improvements Act, was introduced by Senator Charles Grassley (IA) on February 16, 2017.  The bill will address on-going problems with the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) program.

The legislation allows the PSOB office to issue rules, regulations and procedures that are based on standards developed by other federal agencies dealing with death or disability claims of public safety officers.  This is in direct response to the Department of Justice’s delay in adopting the World Trade Center Health Program and Victims’ Compensation Fund findings associated with 9/11-related claims.  Additionally, the legislation restores the “substantial weight” standard that requires the PSOB office to give substantial weight to the findings of federal, state, and local agencies as to the cause of the public safety officer’s death or disability prior to the rewrite of regulations in 2005.  The bill also requires the PSOB office to post a public weekly status report on claims and to make a detailed biannual report to Congress.

S. 419 was approved unanimously by the Senate on Tuesday, May 16th.  The House unanimously approved the bill the following day.  The legislation will now go to the White House for the President’s signature.

House Approves the Honoring Hometown Heroes Act

(May 18, 2017) – On the afternoon of Thursday, May 18th, the House approved H.R. 1892, the Honoring Hometown Heroes Act.  The legislation amends the U.S. Flag Code, affirming the ability of state governors, as well as the mayor of the District of Columbia, to order the lowering of the United States flag to half-staff in the event of the death of a first responder in the line- of- duty.  H.R. 1892, sponsored by Congressman John Larson (CT-1), was approved by the House Judiciary Committee earlier this month.  

Senator Jon Tester (MT), a co-chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, introduced companion legislation, S. 1108, on May 11th.  

Congressional Staff Participate in Ride-Along with DC Fire & EMS

(May 18, 2017) – On Friday, May 12th, approximately 20 staff members from the House and Senate participated in a ride-along with the District of Columbia Fire and EMS Department.  This was a unique opportunity for Congressional staff to witness firsthand the daily operations of firehouses in our nation’s capital as they accompanied firefighters to actual emergencies and observed their actions.

“We extend our appreciation to Chief Gregory Dean and the men and women of the DC Fire and EMS Department for sponsoring this important educational opportunity for Congressional staff,” said Bill Webb, Executive Director of the Congressional Fire Services Institute.  “There are few better ways for Congressional staff to learn about the challenges our firefighters face than by spending a night at the firehouse and seeing firsthand what our frontline responders face every day.”  

CFSI’s mission is to educate Congress about the needs and challenges of our nation’s fire and emergency services.  Partnering with local fire departments, like the DC Fire and EMS Department, is a critical component in delivering that message.  

Fire Service-Based EMS Advocates Recognize National EMS Week

(May 17, 2017) – Sunday May 21, 2017 marks the beginning of National EMS Week and presents an opportunity to honor the men and women who deliver pre-hospital 9-1-1 emergency medical care throughout the United States.  This vital public safety service is provided primarily by cross-trained, multi-role emergency responders who are based in our nation’s fire departments.
The fire service has a rich history of protecting the health and safety of our communities through an emergency response model that includes the delivery of pre-hospital 9-1-1 emergency medical care.  Fire Service-Based EMS providers are trained, equipped and positioned to provide their communities with timely emergency medical care, and more recently, Integrated Community Health Care (ICHC) services as well. Firefighter/EMTs and paramedics respond quickly, professionally, skillfully, and compassionately in communities across the United States every day…24/7.
The Fire Service-Based EMS Advocates Coalition recognizes the life-saving contributions, achievements, dedication and commitment of those who serve in Fire Service-Based EMS systems.  National EMS Week is a time to pause and say “thank you” to the entire EMS Community, especially firefighter/EMTs and paramedics …our nation’s ‘all hazards’ response personnel.
Established in 2006, the Fire Service-Based EMS Advocates Coalition, based in Washington, DC, provides members of Congress and other government officials with information they need to effectively support Fire Service-Based EMS systems throughout the nation. For more information about the Fire Service-Based EMS Advocates and how to join the coalition, visit www.fireserviceems.com.

Senate Committee Approves AFG/SAFER Reauthorization

(May 17, 2017) – Today the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs unanimously approved S. 829, the AFG and SAFER Program Reauthorization Act.  The legislation reauthorizes the Assistance to Firefighters (AFG), the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER), and Fire Prevention and Safety (FP&S) grant programs through Fiscal Year 2023.  Additionally, the legislation removes a “sunset” provision in the current authorizing statute that would eliminate the programs on January 2, 2018.

S. 829 was introduced by Senator John McCain (AZ) and Senator Jon Tester (MT), both co-chairs of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus.  Senator Susan Collins (ME), chair of the Fire Caucus, and Senator Tom Carper, a fellow Fire Caucus co-chair, are original co-sponsors of the legislation.  S. 829 will now go before the full Senate for consideration.

Congress Approves Fiscal Year 2017 Spending Package

(May 4, 2017) – Congress has approved H.R. 244, an omnibus spending bill to fund programs and activities of the federal government for the remainder of the current fiscal year.  As CFSI reported earlier this week, the bill funds the United States Fire Administration (USFA) and the Assistance to Firefighters (AFG) and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant programs at the same levels as Fiscal Year 2016.  The bill also provided modest increases in funding for the Urban Search and Rescue Response System and the Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) program.  

The House approved the omnibus spending measure on Wednesday, May 3rd, clearing the way for the Senate’s approval of the bill on Thursday, May 4th.  The full text of H.R. 244 can be viewed here.

House Judiciary Committee Approves The Honoring Hometown Heroes Act

(May 4, 2017) – On May 3, 2017, the House Judiciary Committee approved H.R. 1892, the Honoring Hometown Heroes Act, by voice vote.  The legislation, which was introduced by Congressman John Larson (CT-1), amends the U.S. Flag Code, affirming the ability of state governors, as well as the mayor of the District of Columbia, to order the lowering of the United States flag to half-staff in the event of the death of a first responder in the line- of- duty.  

In 2013, CFSI’s National Advisory Committee approved a resolution calling on CFSI to support the legislation.  Companion legislation is expected to be introduced in the Senate later this month.