FORGING NEW RELATIONSHIPS:
What These Words Can Mean To The Fire Service 

Each year, the Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) selects a theme for the annual National Fire and Emergency Services Symposium and Dinner Program. By doing so, we attempt to deliver an important message to our attendees – and for that matter the entire fire service – about CFSI’s mission in Washington, DC and how you, as fire service leaders, can contribute to our efforts. The theme for this year’s program is “Forging New Relationships” and in the next few paragraphs I’ll explain why we selected it.

As you know, we have a new Administration which means a lot of new faces – over 4,000 in fact by the time the Trump Administration completes the transition. This includes the cabinet secretaries, the White House staff and many important deputies within every federal agency. The only political position at the United States Fire Administration is the Fire Administrator. As of January 20th, Dr. Denis Onieal holds the title of Acting Administrator and will remain in this position until the President appoints a full-time Administrator.

Many changes also occurred on Capitol Hill as a result of the November elections. There were 55 newly elected members in the House of Representatives and seven in the US Senate. While the Republicans retained control in both chambers, there were important changes in the committee leadership assignments. Whether it was due to retirements, defeats or term limitations for committee chairmanships, many of the committees now have new chairpersons and ranking members.

Change is part of the political system in Washington, DC – whether in the Administration or Congress. Those who can adapt to the changes the fastest have much to gain. This explains why we selected “Forging New Relationships” as our theme — and it’s why you need to consider attending the National Fire and Emergency Services Symposium and Dinner Program.

2017 is going to be a challenging year for the fire service on Capitol Hill. As many of you know, the Assistance to Firefighters and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant program will expire at the end of the year unless Congress can reauthorize both programs. As important as this issue is, we have others to consider. Funding for the United States Fire Administration is of paramount concern. We cannot expect “our” federal agency to perform its four core missions – data collection, training, public education, and research – without the proper financial resources. While Congress has authorized funding for the agency at $76.4 million, the agency receives a far less amount — $44 million in Fiscal Year 2016.

Complacency in Washington, DC puts you at the back of the line for federal dollars. With pressure mounting to curb federal spending, it’s incumbent of the fire service to work collectively to engage our elected representatives in discussions about supporting federal fire service programs. The fire service can exert pressure on our lawmakers by converging on Washington, DC for the annual National Fire and Emergency Services Symposium and Dinner on April 5th and 6th. Having fire service leaders walking through the halls of the congressional office buildings and engaging their elected representatives in discussions about our issues can have a resounding impact on our work – work that benefits all fire and emergency services personnel.

Quite often we are asked by members of the fire service how they can get involved in our mission. Well, here’s your opportunity. Please visit the 2017 Dinner & Symposium section of our website to learn more about our program in April. Join over 2,000 of your fire service colleagues as they forge new relationships and strengthen existing relationships with their federal representatives. By becoming involved, you can help make a difference for our nation’s fire and emergency services.

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