October 19, 2009
The Honorable Janet Napolitano
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528
Dear Secretary Napolitano:
On behalf of the nation’s governors we request that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) revise its policy regarding the use of preparedness grant funding to allow for the sustainment of critical homeland security and emergency management capabilities.
The Grant Programs Directorate of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recently sent an email to states seeking to clarify its policy regarding the use of preparedness grant funds to sustain homeland security investments. According to the email, grantees may only use grant funds to pay for “maintenance agreements, user fees, and other sustainment costs as long as the equipment was purchased with FEMA preparedness grant funding and the sustainment costs fall within the performance period of the grant that was used to purchase the equipment.” While FEMA states that this is not a new policy, it is inconsistent with past practice and will lead to the loss or weakening of critical homeland security capabilities across the country.
The stated goal of the Homeland Security Grant Program is to build and sustain national preparedness capabilities. FEMA’s policy, however, will have the unintended consequence of reducing capabilities and wasting scarce resources. Without greater flexibility to use grant funds for sustainment purposes, many projects may be cancelled and equipment may need to be replaced well before its serviceable lifetime would otherwise end. Critical national capabilities that have been strengthened over the past several years, such as interoperable emergency communications, intelligence and information sharing, hazardous materials (HAZMAT) response and search and rescue, will be severely weakened or lost entirely. For example, information technology projects that support interoperable communications systems or intelligence fusion centers are dependent upon the maintenance of software agreements, technology upgrades, and user fees throughout the life of the system. If grant funds from current and future years cannot be used to support these costs, it will have an immediate and adverse effect on these national homeland security priorities. As another example, level A HAZMAT response teams must maintain the ability to operate in hazardous environments. To do so requires that annual recalibration and preventative maintenance be performed on equipment monitoring and hazard prediction systems.
Governors strongly believe that the partnership between federal, state and local governments is necessary to secure the homeland and protect the safety and security of citizens. Together, governments at all levels have invested billions of dollars over the past several years to build capabilities to prepare for and respond to acts of terrorism, natural disasters, and other man-made events. We urge you to revise the DHS/FEMA policy regarding the use of grant funds for sustainment to ensure that these investments are not lost.
Governor Martin O’Malley
Governor Jim Gibbons
The Honorable Craig Fugate, Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Department of Homeland Security
The Honorable Peter Orszag, Director, Office of Management and Budget
John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism