Chairman Collins Applauds DHS Secretary Ridge for Taking Steps to Improve First Responder Assistance

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Susan Collins (R-ME) today said she was pleased that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is implementing organizational and grant program changes similar to those outlined in her legislation (S. 1245). Collins’ legislation was unanimously approved by the Committee in June 2003.

DHS Secretary Tom Ridge today provided Congress with the details of the Department’s plan to centralize homeland security grant programs within a single office, the Office of State and Local Government Coordination and Preparedness. This move mirrors Senator Collins’ legislation to consolidate all of the federal government’s major terrorism preparedness grants in one location for state and local partners. In addition, the FIRE Act program would remain intact.

“By streamlining the homeland security grant process, DHS will make it easier for our first responders to obtain the assistance they need to make our communities safer,” said Senator Collins. “I’m pleased that Secretary Ridge is taking these important steps, and I support his efforts to improve his agency’s operations.”

Senator Collins’ legislation, the Homeland Security Grant Enhancement Act, would authorize a program to provide assistance to state and local governments and first responders. The bill would create a “one-stop” point of access to grant funding, technical assistance, threat assessments and information on best practices and equipment. It also would allow more flexibility in the use of federal dollars to address homeland security needs and provide first responders with funding in a more coordinated and timely manner. In addition, the bill would eliminate duplication in homeland security planning requirements, simplify the grant application process, and promote equipment interoperability.

“One stop grant shopping should take the guesswork out of the application process,” said Senator Collins. “It will enable our first responders to spend their time on preparing and protecting our communities instead of on navigating through a bureaucratic maze of paperwork.”