WASHINGTON – The Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Homeland Security Committees are asking the Department of Homeland Security to abide by the law regarding flexibility for state and local governments to spend part of their homeland security funding on overtime and other personnel costs.

In a letter to DHS Secretary Chertoff, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and Ranking Member Peter King, R-N.Y., expressed serious concern that provisions in the Department’s 2008 Homeland Security Grant Program Guidance are inconsistent with the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007.

The 9/11 bill permits state and local governments to use up to 50 percent of the funding they receive through these programs for personnel expenditures, including overtime costs related to preventing, preparing for, protecting against, and responding to acts of terrorism. But the FY 2008 Homeland Security Grant Program Guidance places limits on how much a state can spend for these purposes far below the 50 percent level set by law.

The four legislators are asking Chertoff to change the grant guidance to ensure that state and local governments have the flexibility to allocate homeland security grants the way Congress intended them to.

The letter follows:

April 11, 2008

The Honorable Michael Chertoff
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528

Dear Secretary Chertoff:

We write to express our strong concern with provisions in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 Homeland Security Grant Program Guidance that restrict the use of grant funds for certain operational activities. These restrictions are inconsistent with provisions of the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 (9/11 Act), which the President signed into law on August 3, 2007 (P.L. 110–53). We ask that the FY 2008 Homeland Security Grant Program Guidance be changed to reflect Congressional intent.

As the lead negotiators of the 9/11 Act, we arrived at a bipartisan agreement on provisions to formally authorize and alter the State Homeland Security Grant Program (SHSGP) and Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI). The 9/11 Act and the accompanying joint explanatory statement clearly indicate Congressional intent with respect to permitted uses of funds under both SHSGP and UASI. Members of Congress understand that terrorism prevention activities are personnel intensive. As a result, the 9/11 Act permits grant recipients to use up to 50% of the funding they receive for personnel expenditures, including paying the salaries of current, and hiring additional, intelligence analysts, and for paying the salaries of individuals engaged in counterterrorism activities permitted under the FY 2007 counterterrorism staffing pilot. In addition, the 9/11 Act sought to provide greater flexibility to grant recipients by permitting funds under SHSGP to be used for activities that were traditionally only allowed under UASI, and vice versa.

Unfortunately, the FY 2008 Homeland Security Grant Program Guidance places limits on the uses of grant funds for these activities in direct contravention of the statute. For instance, Section 2008(a)(12) of the Homeland Security Act, as amended by the 9/11 Act, specifically permits SHSGP and UASI funds to be used for activities permitted under the FY 2007 counterterrorism staffing pilot, yet the Guidance purports to prohibit the use of funds for these very activities. Similarly, although the 9/11 Act permits grant recipients to use up to 50% of their grant funds for any combination of personnel activities (including overtime and backfill costs), the Guidance attempts to impose far lower caps on personnel spending. For example, the Guidance permits the use of only 15% of SHSGP funds to pay for intelligence analysts at the State’s primary fusion centers, and restricts the use of funds only to new positions. UASI funds may be used for intelligence analysts as well, but spending for this purpose is restricted to only 25% of funds. The Guidance would also limit spending on personnel for planning, training, exercise, and equipment activities to 15% of grant funds.

Furthermore, while Information Bulletin (IB) #281, which was released on March 5, 2008, was a positive step in correcting flaws in the original grant guidance, it still does not bring the Guidance into alignment with statutory requirements. The bulletin still requires a certification that any intelligence analyst position funded with 2008 SHSGP funds is a new position above current capability. This guidance change does not allow funding to support any existing analyst position. Over the last several years, many States have established fusion centers. While they may not require assistance to further expand these centers, they require assistance to sustain their current capabilities. As you know, the National Strategy for Information Sharing discusses the need for Federal sustainment funding for fusion centers. It was Congress’ intent to allow States the ability to use SHSGP and UASI funds for sustainment purposes.

The provisions noted above will have an adverse impact on many grant recipients and may even have the effect of forcing some fusion centers to restrict or cease operations. The Federal government must continue to support State and local counterterrorism and intelligence activities. Therefore, we urge you to change the grant guidance to bring it into compliance with the 9/11 Act to ensure our State and local partners receive the kind of financial assistance they need.

Thank you for your time and attention to this important matter.