House Appropriations Committee Advances Fiscal Year 2019 Funding Bill

(July 25, 2018) – On Wednesday, July 25th, the House Appropriations Committee approved the Fiscal Year 2019 Homeland Security Appropriations Act.  The funding bill provides $350 million each for the Assistance to Firefighters (AFG) and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant programs.  This is the same amount as the programs are funded at in the current fiscal year.

The bill also funds the United States Fire Administration (USFA) at $44,993,000, the same amount as requested in the White House’s FY19 budget proposal and $596,000 over the current fiscal year.  This amount also includes $1.5 million for infrastructure improvements at USFA’s Emmitsburg, Maryland campus.

Additionally, the bill increases funding for the Urban Search and Rescue System (US&R) to $45,330,000.  The program is currently funded at $35,180,000. The White House requested only $27,513,000 for US&R in the Administration’s FY19 budget proposal.  

On June 21st, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved S. 3109, the Senate version of the Fiscal Year 2019 Homeland Security funding bill.  The House and Senate versions of the spending bill will now be considered by their respective chambers.  If approved, the appropriators will meet in conference to resolve any differences in the bills. The current fiscal year ends on September 31st.  CFSI will continue to provide updates throughout the appropriations process.

CFSI Releases 2018 Legislative Outlook

(March 29, 2018) – The Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) has released its Legislative Outlook for the Second Session of the 115th Congress.  In 2018, Congress is considering many issues of critical importance to the nation’s fire and emer­gency services. Actions taken by Congress will have a direct impact on the fire service’s ability to prepare for, respond to, prevent, and mitigate incidents both large and small, natural and man-made, local and national in scope. The CFSI Legislative Outlook is synopsis of some critical issues that will be considered during the Second Session of the 115th Congress.

“On April 18th and 19th, over 1,500 fire service leaders will be in Washington, DC attending the 30th Annual National Fire and Emergency Services Symposium and Dinner.  As part of the event, they will be on Capitol Hill meeting with members of Congress to discuss a number of critical issues,” said Bill Webb, CFSI’s Executive Director.  “We hope this document will not only be a valuable resource for them while they prepare for their trip to our nation’s capital, but also for their members of Congress.”

The CFSI 2018 Legislative Outlook, as well as a full list of current fire service legislation, can be found by visiting CFSI’s website.

White House Releases Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Proposal, Details Requests for Fire Service Programs

(February 15, 2018) – On Monday, the White House released President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget proposal. The $4.4 trillion spending plan includes $46 billion in funding for the Department of Homeland Security. While Congress has yet to complete work on the Fiscal Year 2018 spending package, committees in the House and Senate will begin reviewing the Administration’s spending requests for the next fiscal year.

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 the same amount the Administration requested in its Fiscal Year 2018 budget proposal, and a slight reduction from the $690 million Congress appropriated for the programs in Fiscal Year 2017. The budget proposal also requests $43,493,000 for the United States Fire Administration (USFA), with an additional $1,500,000 targeted for infrastructure improvements at USFA’s Emmitsburg, MD campus. Congress appropriated $44 million for USFA in Fiscal Year 2017.

The President’s plan proposes the same amount for the State Homeland Security Grant Program and the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) as the FY18 budget request: $349.4 million and $448.8 million.  If enacted, funding for both programs would be reduced by  25% compared to actual Fiscal Year 2017 funding levels.

The White House is proposing to fund the Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) grant program at $11.02 million and State Fire Assistance (SFA) at $65.93 million. These programs provide assistance to states and local fire departments for wildland fire prevention, detection, and suppression. In Fiscal Year 2017, the programs were funded at $15 million and $78 million respectively.

The release of the White House budget proposal is the first step in the Fiscal Year 2019 budget process. Once Congress completes its work on the Fiscal Year 2018 funding bills, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees will begin drafting Fiscal Year 2019 funding bills for the individual federal agencies. CFSI will continue to provide updates throughout the process.

 

House Appropriations Committee Approves Fiscal Year 2018 Homeland Security Spending Bill

(July 21, 2017) – On Tuesday, July 18th, the House Appropriations Committee approved legislation funding the Department of Homeland Security for Fiscal Year 2018.  The $44.3 billion spending bill represents a nearly $2 billion increase in spending for the Department compared to the current fiscal year.  

The bill would fund the Assistance to Firefighters (AFG) and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant programs at $690 million, the same amount as the current fiscal year.  The United States Fire Administration (USFA) would receive a slight cut from $44 million for Fiscal Year 2017 to $43.41 million for Fiscal Year 2018.  The Urban Search and Rescue System (USAR) and the State Homeland Security Grant Program (SHSGP) would both be funded at essentially the same levels as the current fiscal year.  The Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) would receive $630 million, an increase of $25 million over the current fiscal year.  

Earlier this year, the White House released a Fiscal Year 2018 budget proposal that recommend significant cuts to the USAR, SHSGP and UASI programs.  

House Subcommittee Conducts Hearing on USFA, Firefighter Grant Programs

(July 14, 2017) – On Wednesday, July 12th, the House Science, Technology and Space Committee’s Subcommittee on Research and Technology conducted a hearing to the review the United States Fire Administration (USFA), the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program and the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant Program.  The hearing, entitled “U.S. Fire Administration and Fire Grant Programs Reauthorization: Examining Effectiveness and Priorities,” featured witnesses from USFA and a number of national fire service organizations.  CFSI submitted comments for the record, which can be viewed here.

USFA is the lead federal agency for our nation’s fire and emergency services. Its core mission is divided into four program areas: data collection, public education, technology development, and training.  Congress created the Assistance to Firefighters (AFG) and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant programs to address the baseline needs of our nation’s fire and emergency services. These two highly successful programs help ensure that our nation’s more than 30,000 fire departments have the necessary training, equipment, and staffing to respond to over 30 million emergency calls annually, and work to reduce community risk.  Legislation reauthorizing these critical programs is expected to be introduced in the House in the coming weeks.  

On May 17th, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs unanimously approved S. 829, the AFG and SAFER Program Reauthorization Act of 2017.  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.

Senate Confirms Brock Long to Head FEMA

(June 23, 2017) – On Tuesday, June 20th, the Senate voted to confirm the nomination of Brock Long to be the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  Mr. Long has more than 16 years of emergency management experience, including as the Director of the Alabama Emergency Management Agency from 2008 -2011.  

FEMA’s mission is to coordinate the federal government’s disaster response, preparedness and mitigation efforts.  The agency oversees the United States Fire Administration and a number of first responder grant programs, including the Assistance to Firefighters and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant programs.  

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved Mr. Long’s nomination by voice vote on June 12th.  The full Senate approved his appointment by a vote of 95-4.

CFSI Participates In BuildStrong Coalition Thought Leaders Forum

(June 9, 2017) – On Wednesday, June 7th, the BuildStrong Coalition hosted the National Thoughts Leaders Forum on Disaster Mitigation Resiliency for a Stronger and Safer America.  The forum, featuring members of Congress, fire service leaders, code and standard organizations, and representatives of the construction and insurance industries, examined the impact strong building codes can have in saving lives and taxpayer dollars and explored incentives for strengthening buildings and mitigating damage from natural disasters.   

Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11), Congressman Lloyd Smucker (PA-16), and Senator Ron Johnson (WI) addressed the forum.  The members of Congress largely focused their comments on the need to reform the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) disaster assistance programs to better protect the public while simultaneously safeguarding taxpayer dollars.

The Forum also featured a Stakeholder Roundtable, which included subject matter experts from a variety of fields, including the fire and emergency services.  Members of the roundtable emphasized the need for federal incentives to encourage state and local governments to adopt model building codes.  Bill Webb, Executive Director of the Congressional Fire Services Institute, participated in the roundtable discussion.  

“Studies, research and real-life events make a compelling case for greater adoption and enforcement of nationally recognized building codes,” said Mr. Webb.  “Providing incentives to encourage more states to adopt these codes, as part of a national mitigation strategy, will reduce the cost of natural disasters for government at the local, state and federal levels and greatly reduce the risk of death and injuries to citizens caught in pathway of these disasters and the first responders who put their lives on the line to save others.”  

CFSI has been a member of the BuildStrong Coalition since 2011 and continues to advocate for the adoption of strong building codes at the federal, state and local levels.    

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.