Governors call for consistent approach to homeland security funding

In response to criticism from some members of Congress that states aren't spending first-responder funds in a timely fashion, the nation's governors are calling for several key reforms to the funding process.

The governors want consistent federal planning guidance, streamlined processing for federal reimbursement requests and a multiyear funding stream to support local community efforts that are consistent with statewide strategies, said Ray Scheppach, executive director of the National Governors Association of Washington in an April 2 letter to Congress.

"These are the key building blocks for establishing the strongest possible hometown security structure supporting the National Homeland Security Strategy," wrote Scheppach.

Still, states are managing to spend the majority of funds they have received for homeland security despite conflicts between having thorough procurement practices and the desire for urgent delivery of equipment and training for first responders, according to NGA.

To support its position, the association cited a survey by the National Emergency Management Association, which shows that most states are obligating or spending more than three-quarters of all funds appropriated before fiscal 2002. To date, 81 percent of all funds have been passed through to local governments, according to the survey.

Because the fiscal 2002 money was only received in late September and October, it is only now being obligated, NGA said.

Congress appropriated $3.4 billion for the Department of Justice and $7.3 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency for homeland security funding in fiscal 2002, according to NGA.

The uproar began when members of the Senate Appropriations Committee raised the issue in a hearing last month and asked Department of Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge to look into the matter, a source close to the matter said.

As director of the Department of Homeland Security, Ridge oversees the Emergency Preparedness and Response Directorate, which includes the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Office of Domestic Preparedness and other agencies. The Office of Domestic Preparedness was formerly part of the Department of Justice.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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