National Governors Association Official Press Release
March 1, 2004
In a briefing sponsored by the National Governors Association (NGA), state homeland security chiefs set the record straight about the current multi-year funding allocation for the first responder grant program, saying it establishes the safest and most strategic security structure for all Americans.
The directors, who were in Washington for a two-day homeland security meeting sponsored by the NGA Center for Best Practices, stressed that appropriate preparedness and responsiveness demands careful forethought and cannot and should not be made overnight. "This is a long-term effort that needs a steady, consistent focus to make it work," said Tim Daniel, the Director of Homeland Security in Missouri.
A panel of five state homeland security directors agreed that it is essential for states to have the flexibility and the enforcement capabilities to respond appropriately to all potential future attacks. "This is a national strategy that requires strong leadership at the White House and the Statehouse. Washington makes the rules, the states implement them," said Gen. Tim Lowenberg, Adjutant General and Homeland Security Advisor in Washington state. "We need to recognize that terrorism doesn-t confine itself to existing political or geographic boundaries, so states must collaborate with one another and governors are in the primary position to do that."
The directors dismissed recent criticism from the U.S. Conference of Mayors that criticizes the states' role in allocating federal grant money to local municipalities. "At the end of the day, success will not be measured by how many billions of dollars we spend in the next 10 years," said George Foresman, the Virginia director of Homeland Security. "Success will be measured in our ability to prevent, to respond to, and if necessary, to recover from an event."
Other directors agreed. "It's a deliberative process and it takes a long time," said Bill Hitchins, the Director of the Georgia Office of Homeland Security. "We have to be very cautious and deliberative, a lot of forethought that goes into it. We cannot do it in a short period."
States have to follow the same rules as local municipalities in applying for the reimbursements from the Homeland Security Department's Office of Domestic Preparedness (ODP), the directors explained. The grant allocations are designed to cover two years of preparedness development. "It's a two-year program and we are at the early stages of a 10-year plan," Daniel said. "Just because there is $15 billion doesn-t mean that there has been $15 billion spent, it means there is $15 billion allocated."
The ODP grant process requires states to submit an application, request local government conduct a comprehensive needs assessment, and make bulk purchases of equipment. Only after states pay the bill are they eligible for reimbursement from ODP. Panelists said careful planning on the part of federal, state and local officials is more important than speeding up the funding allocations. "Would we all like it to be faster? Absolutely," said Foresman. "But I don-t go to the grocery store without a shopping list."
Comparing the criticism of the mayors to that of a soccer game of 6-year-olds, Lowenberg said they are losing sight of the bigger, and more important, picture. "Everybody wants the ball and they are all kicking themselves in the shins to get it," Lowenberg said. "The problem is nobody is protecting the flanks and nobody is protecting the goal, but that is what we are protecting. The states are focused on building teamwork and discipline."