Principles for Legislation to Streamline and Strengthen
Homeland Security Grant Programs
Senator Susan Collins, Chairman, Committee on Governmental Affairs

1: Eliminate duplicative homeland security planning requirements:
The current structure requires states and localities to complete numerous homeland security plans, each with its own set of questions and benchmarks. This legislation will streamline the planning process and provide a clear set of goals. This process will also recognize the importance of retaining the basic functions of important emergency planning programs, such as the Emergency Management Performance Grant.

2: Allow flexibility in the use of the funds:
Existing grant programs limit the Department of Homeland Security’s ability to help states and localities disburse homeland security funds. This legislation will allow states, localities, and first responders to decide how to spend federal dollars to meet their particular homeland security needs, according to their state plans.

3: Make it easier to apply for grants:
In contrast to the complex web of homeland security programs, this legislation will move toward one stop shopping within the Department for state and local officials to access homeland security dollars in a direct and timely fashion. A single source within the Department will provide states, communities and first responders with information on relevant grant programs both inside and outside the department.

4: Coordinate the multiplicity of grant programs that provide homeland security funds for planning, preparedness, and response:
Federal programs within the Department of Homeland Security and outside the new Department provide much needed support to ensure a basic level of equipment and training among first responders, yet often lack coordination. For example, communities received funding for interoperable equipment through five different Federal programs, including the FIRE Act, COPS, HHS’s bio-terrorism program, FEMA’s Emergency Management Performance Account, and ODP’s state homeland security grant program. Despite the goal of these grants - to purchase interoperable equipment - Federal agencies did little to coordinate the grant process. This legislation will coordinate these programs to avoid duplication, ensure that a broad spectrum of needs are being met, and maximize the return on the taxpayers’ dollar.

5: Promote a community-based approach to homeland security funding:
This legislation will make sure that state and local government officials and first responders are included in the homeland security planning process and can access homeland security dollars and equipment in an efficient manner.

6: Match funds with needs:
The 187-page Homeland Security Act includes but a single paragraph on grant programs for first responders. As a result, the Department of Homeland Security is allocating billions of dollars with little guidance from Congress as to how such decisions should be made. This legislation will match homeland security funding with a state’s need, while ensuring that each state receives a reasonable share of the funds.

7: Don’t reinvent the wheel:
This legislation will also recognize the importance of building on existing successful programs, such as the FIRE Act.