WASHINGTON, D.C. — Among its various missions, the new Department of Homeland Security is charged with coordinating and issuing federal grants aimed at helping communities prepare for the threat of biological, chemical and nuclear attacks. Yet local police and fire officials say that many of these programs are so complex and restrictive that they fail to meet their agencies’ needs. On Wednesday, Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Susan Collins (R-ME) and Ranking Member Joe Lieberman (D-CT) will hold the first in a series of hearings to examine how the federal government can more efficiently and effectively provide first responders with the federal assistance they need.
“One of my primary goals for these hearings is to streamline and enhance existing federal grant programs,” Collins said. “Hundreds of millions of dollars in grant funding that could be helping our local communities are lodged in the system, in part, because our local communities do not know how to get it and the Department of Homeland Security does not know how to get it to them. The current structure of one size fits all homeland security programs is not doing the job. We must make sure that federal assistance is sufficiently flexible to meet their diverse needs.”
On Monday, Collins introduced legislation that takes a first step toward streamlining the grant process. Collins’ bill, S. 796, would move the grant issuing Office of Domestic Preparedness from the Border and Transportation Security directorate to the Office for State and Local Government Coordination, which reports directly to Secretary Tom Ridge.
“This bill will help ensure that homeland security funds are distributed in a more coordinated and streamlined fashion while taking into consideration the needs of states and local first responders,” Collins said.
WHAT: Hearing on “Investing in Homeland Security: Challenges on the Front Line”
WHEN: 9:30 a.m., Wednesday, April 9, 2003 WHERE: Room SD-342, Dirksen Senate Office Building
WITNESSES: Chief Ed Plaugher, Arlington County Fire Department; Chief Jeffrey Horvath, Dover (DE) Police Department; Chief Michael J. Chitwood, Portland (ME) Police Department; Chauncey Bowers, Firefighter, Emergency Medical Technician, Prince Georges County Fire Department.