Surveys track security funds, communication
In June, the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) released two reports that examined the state of homeland security in cities. The “Third Mayors’ Report to the Nation: Tracking Federal Homeland Security Funds Sent to the 50 State Governments” revealed most cities still have not received federal money to support first responders. “The United States Conference of Mayors: Interoperability Survey” identified that most local law enforcement agencies cannot communicate with federal law enforcement agencies.
The Homeland Security Funds Study is the latest in a series of reports that assesses the flow of federal homeland security funds through states to cities. It reveals that despite some improvement, 52 percent of the 231 cities surveyed still have not received any of the $1.5 billion available from the Federal First Responder/Critical Infrastructure Program. Still others have not been notified they will receive money from the program designed to assist first responders such as police, fire and other local officials.
The first report in the series — released last September — found that 90 percent of the 168 cities surveyed had not received any funding under the Federal First Responder/Critical Infrastructure Program, the largest federal homeland security program. The second report — released in January — said that 76 percent of the 215 cities surveyed had not received any funding under the same program. The newest report found that about one-fourth of the surveyed cities had received funding — the same percentage reported in the second survey five months earlier — and another one-fourth had been told they would receive funding.
The survey contains information from all 50 states and Puerto Rico and examines the flow of funds from 10 homeland security programs designed to strengthen cities’ abilities to protect their residents. For example, with $1.4 billion, the Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Hospital Preparedness Program has enough money to help many communities. But, the USCM survey found that officials in 40 percent of the cities said their city government or health department did not have an adequate opportunity to participate in their state’s planning process for preparedness activities. At the same time, officials in 36 percent of the cities do not believe their state’s plan adequately reflects their priorities for the use of the funds. In 85 percent of the surveyed cities, officials anticipate that the health department will be funded through the program, and officials in 83 percent of the cities expect one or more of their hospitals to receive funding.
In cities that participate in the Airport Law Enforcement Reimbursement Program, 48 percent of the airport operators have not been reimbursed for additional security checkpoint costs. Additionally, officials in 54 percent of the surveyed cities with a port that receive funding through the $245 million Port Security Grant Program say they were responsible for providing security or other services to that port. And, of those cities that have a port, 69 percent say they are not receiving funding.
Perhaps most surprisingly, for the $556 million State Preparedness Program, 44 percent of cities say they did not have an adequate opportunity to influence their state’s funds’ use. And officials in 36 percent of cities said the allowable uses of the funds would not address their top security priorities.
Complementing the Homeland Security Report, USCM released its Interoperability Survey, with responses from 192 cities in 41 states and Puerto Rico. The survey was designed to measure the level of interoperable communications across the critical infrastructure located within city, state and federal public safety agencies.
Among the major findings of the survey is that 44 percent of the cities reported that in the last 12 months there had been an incident in the city or region requiring multi-agency response, and the lack of interoperable communications made response difficult. Another major finding is 58 percent of the cities report that the current federal mechanism for distributing homeland security funding through the states has delayed interoperable communications equipment purchases.
Other significant findings include 88 percent of surveyed cities report they are not interoperable with homeland security departments, such as FEMA, Customs and border patrol. Also, 83 percent of cities say they are not interoperable with the Department of Justice and units such as the FBI, Joint Terrorism Task Force, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Seventy-five percent report that they have not received or been notified that they would be receiving federal funding for interoperable communications.
Surveyed mayors expressed concern that funding for first responders would not flow through a streamlined system that meets their needs. But, the overriding concern was that the system is inclined to view counties, not cities, as the keys to emergency preparedness and response.
How cities will use money from the Federal First Responder/Critical Infrastructure Program
Respondents could choose more than one option.
SOURCE: The U.S. Conference of Mayors
First Responders Interoperable Capability
|77%||report interoperable capability across police and fire departments|
|66%||have interoperable capability across police, fire and EMS|
|SOURCE: The U.S. Conference of Mayors|