WASHINGTON—On Thursday, Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee, which oversees the Department on Homeland Security, introduced the Homeland Security Grant Coordination and Simplification Act. This legislation would eliminate duplication in homeland security planning requirements, simplify the application process, and help states and localities promote equipment interoperability. The bill also would promote greater coordination between state and local governments.
“Overlapping planning requirements and applications required by federal agencies have created a mountain of paperwork for our states, localities and first responders.” Collins said. “Answering the same question five different ways does nothing to protect against weapons of mass destruction. More paperwork may make Washington feel safer, but it does nothing to protect Maine’s cargo ports, its borders or its people.”
Under the existing homeland security structure, state and local officials are forced to complete separate emergency plans for different federal agencies and redundant application forms for the fragmented grant programs. For example, local agencies can access funding for interoperable communications equipment through six different federal programs. Despite the unified goals of these grants – to purchase interoperable equipment — federal agencies are under no requirement to coordinate the grant process.
“My legislation will make sure that federal agencies help, not hinder, state and local efforts to promote interoperability and better coordination of homeland security efforts. “This bill will require federal agencies to build a clear, well-marked path that will lead our first responders to the funding that enables them to do what they do best: prepare for and respond to emergencies,” Collins said.
Collins announced the legislation during the third in a series of committee hearings to examine how the federal government can more effectively provide first responders with the federal assistance they need. Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and others discussed the challenges facing state and local homeland security efforts and how federal funding for those efforts should be distributed.
A summary of the legislation is attached. A copy of the bill is available on the committee’s website at http://govt-aff.senate.gov.