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Homeland Security Grants: Not For Emergency Management, Part 2

Homeland Security Grants: Not For Emergency Management, Part 2

Terrorism is more like a communicable disease than a tornado or earthquake. One can't really prevent a tornado or earthquake from occurring, or stop them from causing damage once they do. But, communicable diseases and terrorist potentially can be stopped in their tracks – and prevented from spreading from state-to-state – through proactive national strategies and associated funding. Maybe this explains why America has a National Homeland Security Strategy and a National Health Security Strategy, but not a National Emergency Management Strategy?.

Maybe this explains why Congress funds the Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP) and the Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) Program to a much greater extent than the Emergency Managent Performance Grant (EMPG)?  Maybe this is why EMPG requires a 50% match from state and local governments?

As discussed in Part 1, most in Congress view disaster preparedness and emergency management as state and local responsibilities. After all, few natural (non-public health) and technological disasters cross state lines. And could any federal preparedness programs possibly prevent them from doing so anyhow?

But, Let there be no doubt, Preventing human caused disasters – terrorism and domestic terrorism – has Congress’ attention, both strategically and fiscally.

The Birth of Homeland Security

"Homeland Security" was introduced to the American vernacular in George W.Bush’ nationally televised address to a joint session of Congress in 2001. In the address, the President laid the foundation for Homeland Security in stating, “[o]ur nation has been put on notice:  We are not immune from attack.  We will take defensive measures against terrorism to protect Americans. Today, dozens of federal departments and agencies, as well as state and local governments, have responsibilities affecting homeland security.  These efforts must be coordinated at the highest level.” 

Nowhere in the President’s address do the terms “emergency management,” emergency preparedness,” “disaster,” “Federal Emergency Management Agency,” or "FEMA” appear.

Intentional? Absolutely!

"We will take defensive measures against terrorism to protect Americans. Today, dozens of federal departments and agencies, as well as state and local governments, have responsibilities affecting homeland security.  These efforts must be coordinated at the highest level."

On November 25, 2002, the Homeland Security Act (HSA) created the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which assimilated the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and 21 other agencies and departments. Per the HSA, the mission of DHS is to, “Prevent [emphasis added] terrorist attacks within the United States; Reduce the vulnerability of the United States to terrorism, and Minimize damage and assist in recovery for terrorist attacks that occur in the United States.” 

Of the law’s 187 pages, reference to emergency preparedness and response and FEMA’s role is reserved to fewer than four pages. And of the 17 Titles in the law, only Title V refers to emergency preparedness and management and FEMA’s role in the new department. Yes, one Title and less than four pages.

Maybe emergency preparedness and FEMA were being demoted in the new era of homeland security?

Intentional? Sure!

2002 National Strategy for Homeland Security

In 2002, the White House Office of Homeland Security published the first National Strategy for Homeland Security. The purpose of the 2002 National Strategy for Homeland Security was “to mobilize and organize our Nation to secure the U.S. homeland from terrorist attacks.” The strategic objectives outlined in order of priority were:

  1. Prevent terrorist attacks within the United States;
  2. Reduce America’s vulnerability to terrorism; and
  3. Minimize the damage and recover from attacks that do occur.

Nowhere in the Strategy do the terms “emergency management,” emergency preparedness,” “disaster,” “Federal Emergency Management Agency,” or "FEMA” appear.

Intentional? Oh yeah!

2002 National Strategy for Homeland Security

In 2007, following a "less than ideal" response to Hurricane Katrina, as President Bush called it, the Strategy was updated. The 2007 National Strategy for Homeland Security begrudgingly acknowledged the Nation has threats and hazards beyond terrorism. But is the acknowledged threat of natural disasters worthy of federal preparedness funding? Let’s get back to that.

"...we also must address the full range of potential catastrophic events, including man-made and natural disasters, due to their implications for homeland security."

In the opening paragraph the Strategy states that "[o]ur National Strategy for Homeland Security recognizes that while we must continue to focus on the persistent and evolving terrorist threat, we also must address the full range of potential catastrophic events, including man-made and natural disasters, due to their implications for homeland security." 

The Strategy continued, “[t]he purpose of our Strategy is to guide, organize, and unify our Nation’s homeland security efforts. It provides a common framework by which our entire Nation should focus its efforts on the following four goals.”

  • Prevent and disrupt terrorist attacks;
  • Protect the American people, our critical infrastructure, and key resources;
  • Respond to and recover from incidents that do occur; and
  • Continue to strengthen the foundation to ensure our long-term success.

Note that the Goals do not reference 'mitigation' or ‘preparedness.’ And, like the 2002 Strategy, nowhere in the document will one find the terms “emergency management,” emergency preparedness,” “disaster,” “Federal Emergency Management Agency,” or "FEMA”.

Intentional? You betcha!

2010 National Security Strategy

In 2010, the 2007 National Strategy for Homeland Security was superseded by the 2010 National Security Strategy. Beyond the new title, there are vastly philosophical and strategic differences within. The new Strategy, published by the Obama administration, appears to collapse the National Security Strategy and National Strategy for Homeland Security into one. In doing so, it appears to recognize that preventing terrorism in the ‘Homeland’ – much like preventing communicable diseases from spreading – requires an international mindset.

Again, like the 2007 Strategy, emergency management and preparedness activities are illusive, requiring one to dig deep to find any such references. The 50-page document is built upon four National Interests:

  • Security
  • Values
  • Prosperity
  • International Order

Though not readily apparent on the surface, emergency preparedness and management are found within Security, which has six priority areas, one of which is emergency preparedness and management focused:

  • Strengthen Security and Resilience at Home: “At home, the United States is pursuing a strategy capable of meeting the full range of threats and hazards to our communities. These threats and hazards include terrorism, natural disasters, large-scale cyber attacks, and pandemics.”
  • Advance peace, security, and opportunity in the greater middle east
  • Invest in the capacity of strong and capable partners
  • Secure cyberspace
  • Reverse the spread of nuclear and biological weapons and secure nuclear materials
  • Disrupt, dismantle, and defeat Al-Qa’ida and its violent extremist affiliates in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and around the world.

Under Security, emergency preparedness and management functions are found within Strengthen Security and Resilience at Home, which itself has five priority areas, three of which are preparedness focused:

  • Enhance Security at Home;
  • Effectively Manage Emergencies: “We are building our capability to prepare for disasters to reduce or eliminate long-term effects to people and their property from hazards and to respond to and recover from major incidents;”
  • Empowering Communities to Counter Radicalization;
  • Improve Resilience Through Public-Private Partnerships: “When incidents occur, we must show resilience by maintaining critical operations and functions… The private sector, which owns and operates most of the nation’s critical infrastructure, plays a vital role in preparing for and recovering from disasters,” and
  • Engage with Communities and Citizens: “We will emphasize individual and community preparedness and resilience through frequent engagement that provides clear and reliable risk and emergency information to the public.”

Yes, only three paragraphs referring to emergency preparedness and management functions.

Intentional? Correctamundo!

Homeland security and emergency management are not one in the same. And, though there is some bleed over with emergency management functions, especially at the state level and within large urban centers, Congress did not  authorize the Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP) to prevent, mitigate against, prepare for, respond to, and recover from natural or technological disasters. Congress authorized the HSGP to prevent and recover from terrorist attacks.

Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP)

The HSGP is authorized by the HSA. Like all federal programs, the amount appropriated each year for cooperative agreements rest with Congress’ mood. The program authorizes DHS to offer cooperative agreements to the states with requirements that sub-grants are offered to local governments and related not-for-profit organizations.

HSGP funds can be used for a range of activities, including planning, organization, equipment purchase, training, exercises, and management and administration across all core capabilities and mission areas. The exact deliverables, which ebb and flow from year-to-year, are outlined in the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA).

In the FY 2005 HSGP FOA, DHS writes, "[t]he purpose of the FY 2015 HSGP is to support state and local efforts to prevent terrorism and other catastrophic events and to prepare the Nation for the threats and hazards that pose the greatest risk to the security of the United States.”

Despite what appears to be a broad preparedness mission, in describing the three specific programs within, DHS' intent is clear. The HSGP is not an emergency management program.

Maybe that is why local emergency management agencies are underfunded and overshadowed? Maybe not?

Read Part 3 of 3 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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