USA — On Feb. 5, President George W. Bush released his proposed budget forfiscal year 2008. The $2.9 trillion proposal includes $46.4 billion for theDepartment of Homeland Security but eliminates or reduces 141 governmentprograms, including the Staffing and Adequate Fire and Emergency Responseprogram.
Bush is requesting $300 million for the FIRE Grant program, a 2.4% increasefrom his FY 2007 request. However, no money was requested for the SAFER grants.These proposed funding levels represent a significant decrease from the $547million for FIRE and $115 million for SAFER that Congress appropriated for FY2007.
The presidents budget also seeks to limit the programs for which firedepartments may use FIRE Grant monies to training, equipment and personalprotective gear. The president has proposed this change in previous fiscal years;however, each time Congress made sure the funds could be used for all hazardsand for all types of programs, including wellness and fitness, fire prevention,public education, and modifications of facilities for the health and safety ofpersonnel.
Bushs DHS funding request is 8% increase over FY 2007. This requestincludes $100 million for efforts to reorganize FEMA and a total of $3.2 billionfor grants to state and local entities for disaster preparedness, response,communications, training and other purposes.
Recent reforms passed by Congress have designated FEMA as a stand-aloneresponse agency within DHS. These reforms have triggered a reorganization ofseveral constituent components of DHS and FEMA, with a new organizationalstructure now under review. Beginning in March, the new structure will formallygo into effect, with USFA, grants and training programs moving to FEMA.
The president also requested $43.3 million for the U.S. Fire Administration,which would mark only the third time that the USFA would receive its own funding.(Congress appropriated nearly $47 million for it in FY 2007.)
Other budget proposals include:
State and local programs.
The president requested $215 million for formula-based grants, including $200million for the Emergency Management Performance Grants, $15 million for CitizenCorps, $250 million for risk-based grants through the State Homeland SecurityGrant Program and $800 million for the Urban Areas Security Initiative. Aportion of the security grants has been earmarked for law-enforcementterrorism-preparedness purposes.
Wildland fire programs.
The president has proposed $1.65 billion for wildland fire management throughthe Department of Agriculture, which includes an unspecified amount for theVolunteer Fire Assistance program to fund technical, financial and relatedassistance to rural fire departments for organizing, training and equippingfirefighters. Congress appropriated $13 million for the program in FY 2006 andhas not yet settled on a final funding level for FY 2007.
Bush also proposed eliminating the Department of Interiors Rural FireAssistance program to help rural and volunteer fire departments that routinelyhelp fight fires on or near land owned by the department.
The administrations budget proposal for FY 2008 includes funding forinteroperable communications programs designed to improve voice and datacapabilities for emergency responders. The majority of this funding comesthrough a $1 billion program originally authorized in 2006, which will provideresources for the purchase of interoperable communications equipment beginninglater this year. Additional assistance will be available through DHSs SAFECOMprogram.