Homeland Security Grants: Not For Emergency Management, Part 1

Homeland Security Grants: Not For Emergency Management, Part 1

Congress has appropriated $1,044,000,000 for 2015-2016 Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP) cooperative agreements – and very few of those dollars will be allocated to improve state and local Emergency Management capabilities. Why? Because most in Congress view disaster preparedness as a state and local responsibility. The thinking is that most natural and technological disasters do not cross state lines, and federal preparedness programs will not prevent them from doing so anyway. 

 But, when it comes to human caused disasters – more commonly called terrorism or domestic terrorism – Congress is on board, both strategically and financially.

You see, terrorism is more like a viral pandemic than a tornado or earthquake. Like a viral pandemic, terrorism requires a proactive national approach. Neither has respect for state borders - or international borders – and both can potentially be prevented from spreading through targeted national strategies. And, as we have seen with the fight on terrorism and ebola, the federal government will take the fight overseas in an attempt to eradicate killer thugs and killer bugs at their source – before they reach America. Such strategies are not possible for hurricanes, tornadoes, and wildfires.

But, is there not bleed-over between the prevention efforts of Homeland Security and the preparedness efforts of Emergency Management? Sure, at the state level. But, when it comes to local governments, mostly, only the largest metropolitan areas enjoy the benefit.

Emergency Management

The Emergency Management discipline has been around far longer than that of Homeland Security, and, unlike Homeland Security, it has been clearly defined. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) defines Emergency Management as "the managerial function charged with creating the framework within which communities reduce vulnerability to hazards and cope with disasters."

But, interestingly, the Nation has a Homeland Security Strategy and a National Health Security Strategy, but no National Emergency Management Strategy. Intentional?.

"...the Nation has a Homeland Security Strategy and a National Health Security Strategy, but no National Emergency Management Strategy."

To be fair, the George W. Bush administration did publish Homeland Security Presidential Directive-5/HSPD-5, which stated, "[t]o prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from terrorist attacks, major disasters, and other emergencies, the United States Government shall establish a single, comprehensive approach to domestic incident management." It was HSPD-5 that introduced the National Response Plan (NRP), now the National Response Framework (NRF), and the National Incident Management System (NIMS).

In 2011, President Obama replaced HSPD-5 with Presidential Policy Directive 8/PPD-8, which stated, "[t]his directive is aimed at strengthening the security and resilience of the United States through systematic preparation for the threats that pose the greatest risk to the security of the Nation, including acts of terrorism, cyber attacks, pandemics, and catastrophic natural disasters.”  It was PPD-8 that mandated the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to develop the National Preparedness Goal (NPG) and the National Preparedness System.

Interestingly, despite having no National Strategy, long before HSPD- 5 and PPD-8, Congress authorized the precursor to the Emergency Management Performance Grant (EMPG) Program to enhance state and local emergency management capabilities.

Emergency Management Funding

The foundation for the EMPG Program was established in 1969 with the enactment of Public Law 91-79, which authorized the President to provide grants to states for the development of disaster relief plans and emergency management programs. The 1969 law, which was set to expire one-year after enactment, was made permanent through the Disaster Relief Act of 1970.

The EMPG remains the only federal grant program focused on all-hazards preparedness activities by state and local emergency management agencies.

Today's EMPG is authorized by four laws: the Post Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act, as amended, the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, as amended, the Earthquake Hazards Reduction Act of 1977, as amended, and the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968, as amended. Collectively, the legislation authorizes state and local emergency management agencies to use EMPG funds to hire staff and carry out approved preparedness activities.

"Unlike the HSGP, the Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) Program, and the Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP), the EMPG Program requires a 50% match from state and local governments."

Unlike the HSGP, the Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) Program, and the Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP), the EMPG Program requires a 50% match from state and local governments. For the vast majority of local Emergency Management Agencies (EMA), which serve rural areas, EMPG funding covers only 50% of a full-time or part-time emergency manager's salary. Outside the major metropolitan areas, there are often no other employees. And without local matching dollars, there are no funds available for other activities..

For FY 2015, Congress appropriated $350,100,000 for the EMPG Program, which is less than 30% of the appropriation for the HSGP. Assuming states utilize 50% of the EMPG for internal staffing and statewide preparedness activities (Most states use more), there is only $175 Million remaining to support over 3,500 local EMAs. Further, given the federal population based funding formula, the 10 most populated states receive 40% of the EMPG pot, leaving approximately $105 Million for local EMAs in the other 40 states.

Clearly, state and local Emergency Management are not a federal priority. But, is it a priority at the state and local level? Well, that's a whole story unto itself.

Homeland Security

On September 20, 2001, in an address before a joint session of Congress, George W.Bush first uttered the term "Homeland Security." Days later he appointed Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge as the first Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which formally came into being as a stand-alone Cabinet-level department under the Homeland Security Act of 2002. DHS absorbed all or part of 22 different Federal departments and agencies, including FEMA.

Unlike Emergency Management, Homeland Security has eluded a crisp definition. In its January 2013 report, Defining Homeland Security: Analysis and Congressional Considerations, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) states, "[t]en years after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the U.S. government does not have a single definition for 'homeland security.' Currently, different strategic documents and mission statements offer varying missions that are derived from different homeland security definitions.”

Despite the definitional challenge, one thing is clear, the HSGP was not established to be an Emergency Management program. The 2002 National Strategy for Homeland Security states that, "[t]he purpose of the Strategy is to mobilize and organize our Nation to secure the U.S.homeland from terrorist attacks." And if one searches the Strategy for the term "Emergency Management," none will be found. 


Following a "less than ideal" response to Hurricane Katrina, as President George W. Bush called it, the Strategy was updated in 2007. The 2007 National Strategy for Homeland Security acknowledged the Nation has threats and hazards beyond terrorism.

Read Part 2 Here...

Karl Schmitt, MPA

Karl Schmitt, MPA

Karl is the Passionate Founder & CEO of bParati. He is on a mission to build a national network of effective, sustainable healthcare coalitions. More...

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