Testimony – National Preparedness Grant Program

Director, Minnesota Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management

On behalf of the
Governors Homeland Security Advisors Council
and the
National Emergency Management Association

Submitted to the House Homeland Security Committee
Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications
United States House of Representatives

Stakeholder Assessments of the Administration’s
National Preparedness Grant Program Proposal

Thank you Chairman Brooks, Ranking Member Payne and members of the Subcommittee for holding this hearing. I am Kris Eide, director of the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety and Homeland Security Advisor to Governor Mark Dayton.

I am here today representing the National Governors Association (NGA) Governors Homeland Security Advisors Council (GHSAC) and the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA). I currently serve as chair of the GHSAC Grants Committee and as Vice Chair of NEMA’s Preparedness Committee.

I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you to discuss how comprehensive reform of federal preparedness grant programs will better serve state and local efforts to build and sustain capabilities to address the various threats and hazards they face. My testimony will discuss: 1) the continuing benefit of federal investments in state and local preparedness; 2) the enduring need for grant reform; 3) the importance of a strong state role in grants administration; and 4) the value of intergovernmental partnerships.

Federal Support Remains Essential
Federal funds continue to provide critical support to state and local efforts to prevent, prepare for and respond to terrorist attacks, natural disasters and man-made events. As discussed in the Department of Homeland Security’s annual National Preparedness Report, our nation’s level of preparedness has vastly improved since September 11, 2001, and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. This is the result of increased focus on building community resiliency, improved coordination and engagement among all levels of government and more than a decade’s worth of federal investments in training, equipment and personnel at the state and local level.

Since 2003, federal grant funds have supplemented billions of dollars in state and local investments to build and sustain capabilities including interoperable communications, training of personnel, enhancing information sharing and community preparedness, and hazardous materials response. In recent years, strategic planning efforts such as the State Preparedness Report (SPR) and Threat Hazard Identification Risk Assessment (THIRA) process have facilitated intergovernmental coordination and helped align state and local investments into capabilities that also meet national and regional needs. These capabilities include special response teams in the areas of weapon of mass destruction, urban search and rescue and veterinary rapid response teams in addition to agricultural warning systems. Federal grant funds support standardized training for mass casualty incidents, the national network of fusion centers and citizen and community preparedness initiatives nationwide.

In Minnesota, federal preparedness grants have funded a number of critical projects and supported key investments that serve the entire state. Some key examples include:

  • Cybersecurity monitoring for detection of network cyber-attacks and breaches.  To date, the state’s executive branch agencies and 15 of the 87 counties have this detection and deterrence capability.
  • Capabilities for medical surge through funding Ambulance Strike Teams and Mobile Medical Teams.  These assets were used for two separate disasters to help with the evacuation of medical and long term care facilities.
  • Improvements to situational awareness and coordination of emergency response through the purchase and sustainment of statewide video-teleconferencing and incident management software systems.  It has been estimated that the purchase of the video-teleconferencing equipment has resulted in a 3 year return on investment in time management and resource identification and deployment.

Minnesota also has the largest land-mobile public safety interoperable radio network in the country.  Federal preparedness funds have been used to augment the $240 million of state funds spent to build the infrastructure and purchase equipment allowing for public safety responders across the state to talk to each other.  This system was first used successfully following the collapse of the I-35W bridge in 2007. Since then it has been used for special events, hostage situations and disaster response. The state and local governments continue to spend approximately $11 million each year to maintain this capability.  Without federal preparedness funds being used for those items not eligible for state funding, the state would be nowhere near the current 95% completion for the project.

Grant Reform Will Improve Effectiveness
Federal funding for homeland security grant programs has decreased by more than 75 percent since the program’s inception in 2003, yet the structure remains unchanged. Congress has recognized this continuing disconnect and included language in annual appropriations bills as recently as Fiscal Year 2012 to push for “long-overdue” and “bold” reform of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) administration of its State and Local Programs.1  Important improvements have been made to processes for assessing risk and strategic planning, but the current grant program design can no longer achieve the type of accountability Congress demands and support the preparedness capabilities our communities need.

Given these ongoing challenges and the current fiscal environment, the need for reform of these preparedness grant programs has never been more urgent. In the Fiscal Year 2013 budget, FEMA provided a proposal to consolidate grant programs into a new National Preparedness Grant Program (NPGP). Over the last two years, FEMA’s NPGP proposal has helped foster a dialogue on states’ enduring challenges with the current suite of 16 separate preparedness grant programs.

Although we continue working on clarifying and understanding the finer points and their potential impacts on states, we remain encouraged to see legislative language for NPGP accompany the President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 budget request. This is an important “next step” for continuing engagement efforts with Congress and stakeholders to find common ground on a grants framework that reflects both today’s fiscal realities and its dynamic threat environment.

Since 2003, the grant programs have allocated more than $40 billion to state and local governments to build and sustain preparedness capabilities. The successful outcomes supported by this investment must be acknowledged. At the same time, the need to better align these grant programs with today’s fiscal realities and operational challenges must also be recognized. At their inception, the grant programs were required to address an unknown threat environment after September 11, 2001. More than $4 billion in funding was made available through state and local preparedness grants in Fiscal Year 2003 alone. In addition to fiscal changes, the environment now incorporates the new “all-hazards” focus stemming from lessons learned after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and subsequent multi-state disasters. A key lesson from those events is the importance of intergovernmental collaboration and integrating preparedness planning and response activities to ensure unity of effort. Declining budgets at all levels of government have increased the need to leverage resources and facilitate cross-jurisdictional coordination. We can no longer afford to operate in separate silos.

Unfortunately, the current suite of grant programs perpetuates such separations and no longer reflects ongoing efforts to align state and local capabilities with national preparedness objectives. Today’s dynamic threat environment requires a grants program that prioritizes investments based on risk while maintaining state and local ability to sustain prior investments that support national goals. Grant programs must be flexible and agile to address changing hazards and ensure local investments synchronize with statewide and regional priorities.

Duplicative reporting requirements and increased administrative burden under the current framework also diminish return on investment (ROI) as more time and money must be spent on grants administration and management. Comprehensive reform would better facilitate maximum efficiency of taxpayer dollars and better enable accurate measure of ROI over time.  This flexibility with accountability can represent the face of these reformed grant programs.  For only through comprehensive changes to the existing structures can we achieve a more effective preparedness program for states and locals.

State Oversight Serves National Needs
In addition to improving program effectiveness, comprehensive grant reform also can facilitate improved accountability and transparency. The SPR and THIRA should align preparedness investments with current risk and identified capability gaps. Simply placing that process atop the current grants structure fails to fully integrate all grantees under the state THIRA or provide adequate visibility on funding allocations across jurisdictions within the state.

A strong state role in the management of grant funds will better ensure transparency, coordination and the effective use of funds. States are best positioned to achieve economies of scale, avoid duplication of effort, leverage available assets and avoid gaps in critical capabilities. An enhanced state role would also better reflect governors’ constitutional emergency authorities.

As FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate pointed out in recent testimony before this subcommittee, governors have unique emergency authorities, including the ability to deploy the National Guard.2 To properly use these authorities to save lives and protect property, governors and their homeland security advisors, emergency management directors and adjutants general, must have knowledge of capabilities, assets and resources throughout the state. By serving as the central point of coordination among multiple jurisdictions and functional areas, states play a key role in ensuring that scarce resources are used effectively to meet identified national priorities that are tailored for regional needs.

States currently employ a variety of governance structures to administer and manage the grant programs, but remain in the best position to oversee and coordinate all homeland security and emergency preparedness activities within their boundaries. Currently, states have no role in the use of port and transit security grants which limits visibility on the use of funds within the state or the projects receiving grant dollars. These funds could be used by a local area to implement proprietary communications systems that are not interoperable with surrounding areas or the statewide system. These challenges make it difficult to ensure coordination among all levels of government and ensure investments are aligned with city, state and regional preparedness goals.

We are encouraged that the NPGP proposal recognizes the importance of state oversight and are committed to working with this committee to explain how states are working with local stakeholders to ensure active engagement throughout the grants process.

Partnership is Key to Community Preparedness
Intergovernmental and public-private collaboration and communication are key elements in achieving a “whole community” approach to national preparedness. These concepts were recently demonstrated in a number of ways, including the improved preparation and response to Hurricane Sandy; the support provided by state and local fusion centers on numerous successful criminal and terrorism investigations, such as the Boston Marathon bombing; the ongoing implementation of a nationwide public safety broadband network; the use of National Guard dual-status commanders to coordinate state and federal military forces during an emergency; and the development and implementation of the National Preparedness System. The grants process, including reform efforts, must include input from a variety of stakeholders, and states are committed to working with our partners in local and tribal governments as well as the first responder community.

States use a variety of mechanisms to develop and implement homeland security strategies and plans on an ongoing basis. Integral to all state efforts is the involvement of a multitude of state, local and tribal stakeholders throughout the process. Most states have regional councils or committees that are used to ensure coordination with local officials, including police, fire, emergency medical services, public health, county and city management officials, non-profit organizations and the private sector. These regional committees provide for a transparent process that fosters collaboration and partnership and aids in the distribution of the currently required 80 percent “pass-through” of funds to localities.

Active federal, state and local engagement is critical to addressing emerging national security challenges and to sustaining our current state of preparedness. No level of government can address any of these issues independently. In an era of constrained budgets, we all must learn to do more with less while ensuring the preparedness priorities of states receive the necessary attention they require. Effective partnerships are imperative to meet both the needs of our communities and the National Preparedness Goal of “a more secure and resilient nation.”

States are Partners in Reform Efforts
As Congress and this Committee consider the NPGP proposal and engage with stakeholders, NEMA and the GHSAC have offered several documents outlining states’ priorities and principles to inform grant program reform. The documents are attached to this statement and submitted for the record.  Furthermore, we offer several recommendations to ensure federal investments in state and local preparedness remain aligned with national preparedness goals and provide a clear value to both communities and the taxpayer.

  • Value local decision-making and national assessment:  An examination of preparedness must not consist solely of broad goals and priorities, but also must form the basis for action. FEMA should continue to improve the SPR and THIRA process to ensure they provide value to states and local governments. The THIRA should support state efforts to integrate core capabilities thoughtfully and systematically into their planning, analysis and assessment processes.
  • Assess risk continuously across all levels of government: Threat assessment, such as THIRA, must be conducted independent of funding allocations in order to adequately assess the current risk and hazards of a locality, state and region. This must be a continuous process and not a yearly snapshot simply for reporting purposes.
  • Encourage strategic plans versus spending plans: The planning process must focus on setting and achieving strategic goals under changing and uncertain conditions. This is unlike the current system where funding allocations are determined prior to planning.
  • Allocate funds based on priority needs: Funding allocations should prioritize investments to address the most pressing capability gaps identified in the state and regional THIRA and SPR.
  • Measure progress to fill capability gaps: The above steps allow for an effective and meaningful measurement process. As priorities in the state plans are funded, measureable gaps can be identified, addressed and reported to FEMA and Congress.
  • Provide consistency and support long-term planning: Grant reform should support FEMA’s ability to provide states and subgrantees consistent grant guidance and policy, ensure realistic timelines and foster a culture of collaboration among states, local governments and other subgrantees. States are working with FEMA to integrate the THIRA and SPR processes into state emergency planning, and it should remain part of broader restructuring and reform of FEMA grant programs.

Confronting today’s dynamic threats requires an approach to emergency planning that unifies homeland security partners and remains flexible to changing priorities. The nation must effectively build and strengthen capabilities against a range of threats and reduce the consequences of many hazards to reduce the risks to our communities. These goals can only be accomplished, however, when the barriers and stovepipes limiting flexibility and innovation are removed.

NGA and NEMA welcome the opportunity to work with this Committee as you assess the current grant programs, evaluate the NPGP proposal and consider other potential reforms. We also look forward to working with FEMA to identify and address key questions and concerns regarding their proposal and other opportunities to improve administration of federal grant programs.

Chairman Brooks and Ranking Member Payne, thank you for the opportunity to testify on this important topic. I am happy to answer any questions you or other members of the Subcommittee may have.


1. House Report 112-91 accompanying the Fiscal Year 2012 Homeland Security Appropriations bill (H.R. 2017), part of Public Law 112-33; September 30, 2011.

2. Testimony of FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications Hearing: The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s FY2015 Budget Request: Ensuring Effective Preparedness, Response, and Communications; March 25, 2014; http://homeland.house.gov/hearing/subcommittee-hearing-federal-emergency-management-agency-s-fy2015-budget-request-ensuring.