Saturday, May 21, 2011

FY 2011 UASI Awards Leave Many on the Sidelines

The FY 2011 UASI grant awards were announced Thursday.  The reduction from 64 to 31 UASIs caught many by surprise.  While I was predicting that the UASI list might go down to 40-45, 31 was a deeper cut than was expected.


"Eligible candidates for the FY 2011 UASI program have been determined through an analysis of relative risk of terrorism faced by the 100 most populous metropolitan statistical areas in the United States, in accordance with the 9/11 Act. Based on that analysis, the eligible candidates have been grouped into two tiers according to relative risk. Tier I includes the 11 highest risk areas and will be allocated 81.6 percent (81.6%) of the total UASI funding available; Tier II includes the other 20 candidate areas and will be allocated the remaining 18.4 percent (18.4%) of the total UASI funding available."




Click to enlarge
This compares the FY 2011 UASI grant awards (red) to 2010 amounts (blue). 


I plotted the 2011 awards against the 2010 awards to see how things changed.  DHS decided to keep Tier One cities whole so you will see that their funding was maintained at 2010 levels.  San Diego got promoted to a Tier One while everyone else took it on the chin.  Many cities dropped, all Tier Two cities lost funding. 


Note: I combined Miami and Fort Lauderdale for display purposes. Fort Lauderdale got cut for 2011 but is in the same MSA as Miami so the two areas are now in one UASI. 


Interesting to see the cities that stayed vs. those that dropped off. The funding skipped many cities that got more last year than the ones that stayed on.


This obviously has upset a lot of people and I understand that a lot of good work that was being done may need to be curtailed.  


Fortunately, these UASIs all have significant funding remaining in their pipelines from prior fiscal years and have some time remaining to continue their programs before the money runs out.


I expect more of this in FY 2012, Congress is already looking at proposals to cut the UASI list to only 10 cities. It will get worse before it gets better.





Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Terrorist Threat is not Limited to the 10 Largest Cities

The recent move by the House of Representatives to limit the Urban Area Security Initiative to only 10 cities has obviously caused concern for the 54 other UASI cities.  These cities will be clamoring to make the case that they too are at risk from the threat of terrorism.  While there are many past examples of terrorist acts or attempted acts across the country, from Oklahoma City to Seattle, one not need to look far to find a solid basis for this concern.

Let's look at some recent news for example.
NationalTerrorAlert.com is one of many sources that I use to stay on top of terrorism related news.  (NationalTerrorAlert.com is a private homeland security blog and not affiliated with any government agency.)  I get an e-mail daily with relevant news summaries and links to source news stories.  Today was no exception and the headlines explain my point well:
From this one example we see that terrorism is still an issue in New York City but also in Oregon and South Florida.

South Florida has seen its share of the terrorism threat yet it may soon be off the list of Urban Areas receiving funding under the UASI program (if House members have their way). 

The Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) was created in response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11 to provide funds to selected urban areas to assist them in building an enhanced and sustainable capacity to prevent, respond to, and recover from threats or acts of terrorism.  The UASI Grant Program addresses the unique equipment, training, planning, and exercise needs of large high threat urban areas.  Program activities must involve coordination by the identified city, counties, and the respective State Administrative Agency (SAA).

The South Florida region is home to two UASI cities (Miami and Fort Lauderdale) who work together and with the State of Florida's Regional Domestic Security Task Force to protect, prevent, prepare, respond, and recover from terrorist threats.

In 2003, the first year the UASI grants were distributed, Miami was ranked 11th out of 30 designated high threat cities in the United States.  As such, it is a good example of what type of program may be one of the victims of the budget axe.  

In Miami, the UASI program brought federal, state, local, and regional first responders together to develop projects to enhance South Florida capabilities to address the terrorism threat .  The UASI funding has been allocated to jurisdictions across the region to include Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Miami Beach, West Palm Beach, Broward County, Miami-Dade County, Palm Beach County, and Monroe County as well as many other jurisdictions within this region.

Funding has helped develop plans and provide equipment, training and exercises for special teams across the region.  These investments have supported significant improvements in the regions anti-terrorism capabilities and have supported an overall rise in the level of preparedness and response capabilities.

The UASI grant has provided the South Florida region with equipment such as:  chemical detectors, thermal imaging cameras, personal protective equipment, maritime response vessels, command units, satellite phones, notification systems, redundant radio equipment, generators, power supply back-up for 911 dispatch, tactical ballistic helmets and vests, a helicopter, medical supplies, and many other projects.  

The grant has also provided funding to help coordinate planning, training, and exercises that ranged from interdepartmental incident command training and tabletop exercises to Citywide emergency exercises to regional cross-discipline/multi-agency mock events.  All of the exercises are then evaluated through After Action Reports and improvement plans which are used to continue the cycle of improvement.

The South Florida UASI, like many others across the nation, have been measuring these improvements.  The State of Florida led early efforts to develop a "Capabilities Assessment for Readiness" to measure local capabilities.  Miami built on this to develop a new capabilities assessment tool and worked with FEMA on a pilot capabilities assessment project. The state and regions conducted several capabilities assessments which were used to measure and plan improvements. As a result, the gains were documented and were available for use in making strategic planning updates and investment decisions.

Despite this good work in Miami and other similar UASI cities, Congress seems to think that the program is inefficient and without a means for the measurement of effectiveness.

The record shows us something different.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Budget Axe Looms Large Over Local First Responders

A proposed 2012 budget bill in the House of Representatives slashes the current level of local first responder funding, with the biggest cuts coming in areas critical to anti-terrorism and emergency preparedness. 

American community leaders are reeling. They did not see this coming. Many of their leaders are in a state of shock and denial.  The United States Congress is prepared to make heavy cuts in homeland security grant funding unlike anything they had imagined.
While Congress shaved local first responder funding by about 20% for 2011, their current plans for 2011 are to cut 67% from the FY 2010 level of $3 billion to $1 billion overall.
The Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) which was created to help enhance capabilities in the most at-risk cities will go from a high of 64 cities down to 10 cities under the current House of Representatives proposal.  Cities that were making great headway enhancing capabilities are going to lose ground on preparedness.
This means that potentially 54 cities will lose funding. This includes major U. S. cities from Miami to Seattle, from San Diego to Baltimore, from Detroit to Las Vegas.
The $1 billion remaining, based on the draft legislation, would need to fun nine formerly separate grant programs and would leave it to the Secretary of Homeland Security to determine how best to use it. 
States will also feel the impact. Many will be left with the minimum amount of funding required and they will need to drastically curtail programmatic activities.
What will the impact be?
The impact will not be felt immediately as prior year grant funding is still in the pipeline.  While previous grant funding levels had been generous, cities, counties, territories, and states will need to start a process of program contraction.  Emergency equipment purchases will be curtailed, grant-funded positions will begin to be cut and projects closed out ‑ many planned initiatives will need to be re-evaluated and some will be cancelled.

Can previous enhancements be maintained?
While many capability enhancements are already in place, there is an ongoing cost of sustaining preparedness.  Equipment replacement and upgrades, staffing, training, and exercising are all part of the improvement cycle.  Without sufficient funding to replace or update equipment, develop new plans, maintain existing plans, and provide training and exercising of personnel – the previous level of capabilities will erode.  Cash strapped communities will be forced to curtail special teams designed to deter or respond to acts of terrorism and other emergencies. 

Why did they choose to cut such an important program?
House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security Chairman Robert Aderholt gave a statement which included:

“However, programs that have been underperforming and failing to execute their budgets or measure their results are significantly reduced.”

“In short, this bill puts the taxpayers’ precious, but limited dollars towards the security programs that will have an immediate impact upon our Nation’s safety and security and responsibility reduces spending wherever possible.”
Chairman Aderholt is referring to first responder grant programs. The majority of the House bill’s reductions come from state and local first responder grant programs administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security cited the inefficiency of these grant programs and their inability to demonstrate measurable return on tax payer investments.

Some in Congress have long complained that these state and local grants are inefficient and have been slow to draw down funding.  And there is also concern that there has not been any effective measurement of how the grant funding has helped improve the state of preparedness. This is not surprising as the grant program was rolled out with lose guidance and no performance measurements.  Efforts to develop capability assessments were tried and then shelved. No one has yet found a good way to measure how the investments in first responder capabilities are paying dividends.

Many grantees will admit that they have trouble explaining how much the money helps then, and that they have a backlog.  These grantees are overwhelmed with the workload associated with applying for and spending and then accounting for the grant spending.  They are dealing with a tangle of red tape, audits on top of audits, and difficult grant reporting processes.  Very few have had the time to take the initiative to develop performance measures.  And, many thought that was FEMA’s job to come up with performance measures.
Just this year, as a sign of frustration, Congress commissioned a study. They asked the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) to assist FEMA by with studying, developing, and implementing a plan for promptly developing a set of quantifiable performance measures and metrics to assess the effectiveness of the programs under which covered grants are awarded.
Why is it so hard?
The process of requesting and spending grant dollars can take years due to red tape and procurement processes at the federal, state and local level.  Without getting into the details, suffice it to say that it often takes over a year just to get authorization to spend a grant award. This is regrettable, but it is not a sign that the money is not needed.  These grant dollars are being used to reduce the likelihood of a terrorist attack and to position local first responders to be better prepared to respond to and recovery from terrorist acts.  


These improvements in planning, organization, equipment, training and exercises are making the nation better prepared overall. These improvements have been making a positive impact on our nation’s ability to respond to all sorts of disasters and emergencies, events that are occurring more and more frequently. Unfortunately, the grantees have been unable to tell their story; and, the lack a common and effective voice to help explain this to congress.

Where will this end up?
No one can say how the legislative process will turn out.  The subject bill needs to wind its way through Congress and then to the President. A lot can happen in that process.  There may be compromises and trade-offs.

The House is actually recommending an increase to post-disaster aid funding.  This is probably needed given the recent increase in disasters.  However, reducing investment in protection, preparedness, and response and recovery projects is being seen by many first responders as being short sighted and defeatist. 

Why, when “all disasters are local”, is it that other national homeland security and domestic programs are not being hit as hard as first responder programs? 

Is it “penny-wise but pound-foolish?”  Yes, Congress is risking having to pay more (in human and economic impact) when disasters happen...

Are first responders caught in the middle?  Of course they are…

Opinions expressed here are my own and no others.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

BCM Compensations and Interesting Study Findings for USA and Canada

I just got this great comprehensive report in the mail and thought I would pass it along.


Glossary Link BC Management recently published complimentary BCM Compensation reports as a result of the 9th Annual BCM Study (2010) findings, which closed on December 15, 2010.  The next study (soon to be released) will focus on 2010 compensations.

USA BCM Compensation Complimentary Report - Published March 2011. Focus is on 2009 compensations for full- Glossary Link time, permanent employees in the USA.
Some interesting findings include:
  • BCM Average Total Compensation for USA is $105,980 USD
  • 57.89% of Global Managers received an increase in total average compensation and the average total compensation increase was 14.44%.
  • 39.08% of study participants indicated 4-10 years of Glossary Link business continuity related expertise while 53.94% of the study respondents indicated 21 - 35 years of total work experience.
  • According to our study results, the top certification for the USA was the Certified Business Glossary Link ContinuityProfessional (CBCP) - Glossary Link DRI International, which made up 66.96% of the study participants.
Download Complimentary USA BCM Compensation Report - http://all-hands.net/url/bcmusa10
Canada BCM Compensation Complimentary Report - Published May 2011. Focus is on 2009 compensations for full-time, permanent employees in Canada.

Some interesting findings include:
  • BCM Average Total Compensation for Canada is $94,132 Glossary Link CAD
  • 90.91% of Vice Presidents/Directors received an increase in total average compensation and the average total compensation increase was 15.14%.
  • 34.15% of study participants indicated 1-3 years of business continuity related expertise while 42.96% of the study respondents indicated 21 - 35 years of total work experience.
  • According to our study results, the top certification for Canada was the Associate Business Continuity Professional ( Glossary Link ABCP) - DRI International, which made up 54.17% of the study participants.
Download Complimentary Canada BCM Compensation Report - http://all-hands.net/url/bcmca10
Those professionals Glossary Link who completed BC Management’s 9th Annual BCM Study qualified to receive a BCM Compensation Comprehensive report (40+ pages) as a complimentary report for completing the study.  The comprehensive report goes into greater depth highlighting how job responsibilities, experience, certification, location, management expertise and leadership expertise impact a business continuity professional’s earning potential.  Please contact BC Management if you have an interest in receiving this in-depth report Glossary Link or if you completed the 2010 study and haven’t received your complimentary copy – info@bcmanagement.com.

BC Management is delighted to share this information with the business continuity profession.  We hope that you see the value in these reports .  Please contact a BC Management representative with comments/inquiries at info@bcmanagement.com.