Thursday, September 22, 2011

Many DHS Grants are Effective and Have Proper Oversight

Today's blog takes a twist on a recent piece that was published on the Homeland Security Newswire and repeated on several UASI and Emergency Management mail lists and blogs.

The title of this piece was "Many DHS grantsineffective, lack proper oversight" and it was based on an interview with David Muhlhausen, a research fellow in empirical policy analysis at the Heritage Foundation.

As our blog's title clearly indicates, we do not agree with this premise.  And, we question the Heritage Foundation's constant criticism of homeland security grants and efforts.

First some background on where this is coming from.  The Heritage Foundation is a conservative American think tank based in Washington, D.C. Heritage's stated mission is to "formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense."

The foundation is considered to be one of the most influential conservative research organizations in the United States. While this blog strives for neutrality, some people could surmise that homeland security grants do not fit the hardcore conservative profile of "limited government" which the Heritage Foundation promotes.  This may explain a history of anti-homeland security grants opinion which has been pumped out by this foundation.  One could surmise that, since the UASI program is focused on urban areas, which typically skew to the left and are mostly run by Democrats, that the right is not enthralled with the idea of pumping government money to these areas. But clearly, this outfit has an agenda which does not support the UASI grant program. So, one should take what they have to say with a large grain of salt.

Now, to the point of the article, it is the opinion of the writer, and of many UASI grantees, that the DHS grants are very effective and may even have too much oversight.  While some examples of poor choices will be easy to find, for the most part, great things have been done with UASI money.  We have all shared examples of these at UASI conferences where we showcase programs based on planning, organizing, equipping, training and exercising to enhance capabilities to fight terrorism.  While we know that all of the grant programs suffer for a shortage of effective measurement devices, we know that these programs have increased our effectiveness.  We have a good documented history of preventing terrorism; many incidents have been avoided. Non-terrorism disasters, from the I-35 bridge collapse to the recent natural disasters, have shown how much better we are at preventing, responding to, and recovering from disasters.

UASIs need to do a better job of documenting this effectiveness; but, we all know with certainty that the UASI program worked. We are better prepared on all fronts for all types of disasters.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

UASI 2012: An Alternative Future

One of my "UASI Friends" asked why the proposed 2012 UASI funding of $400 million couldn't be shared among the 2011 UASI awardees.  It could obviously. That approach would amount to about 60% of the current award. An updated curve graphic of what this would look like is shown below. This is one alternative future, the money could be spread over more or less UASIs based on the decision of the Homeland Security Secretary.

The "Sixty Percent Solution"

You can click on this image to get a larger version which you may be able to actually read.

Just a note, this is all obviously very speculative. UASIs should consider what is realistic to expect given the funding and the previous clear desire to fund the most at-risk cities over those less at-risk.  However, the argument can certainly be made that all of the cities currently receiving UASI dollars are at-risk and worthy of funding. I expect this will be a debate as the budget is finalized and finally implemented.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Why $400 Million Will Not Save Tier II UASIs

Yesterday’s blog provided a chart that shows how the Senate’s proposed FY 2012 Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) budget compared to previous years.  While the chart shows a steep decline, you may think that $400 million is still a lot of money.  It certainly is a lot of money, and it is better than what the House bill would have provided, but the chart belies the impact on what DHS calls “Tier II” UASI cities. 

Today’s blog looks at the impact of the proposed funding level on UASI cities.

The total number of UASI cities grew to 64 in FY 2010 but saw a dramatic decrease in FY 2011 when it was cut down to 31 due to a 21% decrease in funding.  One can only guess at this point how many FY 2012 UASIs there will be; but, an educated guess is that there will be no more than ten or eleven.  Eleven is the current number of Tier I cities, while ten is a number that has been thrown around by both legislators and grants managers.

The Tier I cities have historically received the “Lion’s Share” of the UASI funding based on a DHS formula that allocated the majority of the funding to these high-risk and heavily populated regions. With less money available, and a desire to keep funding the most high-risk cities, one can assume that only the top cities will be funded in 2012.

By The Numbers

In round numbers, the Senate’s proposed 2012 UASI allocation is 40% less than FY 2011 and only half of the FY 2010 funding amount. Due to the funding curve, where smaller, lower risk cities get smaller amounts, you need to drop a lot of smaller cities to maintain funding for the larger higher risk cities. The 2011 awards dropped 33 of the smaller cities, many of them relatively large cites like Kansas City.

Assuming that the strategy will be to keep as much funding going to the top ten cities, the following chart demonstrates the impact on the other larger high-risk cities.  The top ten, if funded, would share funding which totals only 79% of their current funding levels. While these cities would see significantly reduced funding, all of the other cities would be dropped off the list.  This means that 54 previously funded cities would be dropped. The largest of these is Miami, while Boston is currently ranked higher based on Risk.

Theoretical 2012 UASI Allocations Compared to Previous Years

Of course, this is all conjecture. It could end up that the final budget is more or less.  The number of cities could be less; DHS could opt to go back to the original seven UASI I cities that were the first funded after 9/11.  If the House prevails, homeland security funding will be a block grant. If the FEMA disaster funding impacts the budget, as many think it will, the budget could be cut further. The states are currently proposing grant reforms which may totally change the funding process. The future is uncertain to say the least.

But for now, based on what the Senate Appropriations Committee is voting on today, it seems safe to assume that only seven to eleven UASIs will be funded in 2012.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

FY 2012 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill

Senate bill provides $2.58 billion for state and local grants - $557 million above the House level.

The U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security approved a Fiscal Year 2012 funding legislation bill on September 6th.  The legislation, which still needs to go through the conference committee process and be signed by the President before it becomes law, totals $41 billion in discretionary budget authority, $2.6 billion below the President’s request, and $666 million (-1.6%) below FY 2011.

The good news for DHS and grantees is that this is $408 million above the House-passed bill. 

The Senate rejected the House approach to grants.  In particular, The bill rejects the House proposal to eliminate the Urban Area Security Initiative, Port Security Grants, and Transit Security Grants and other programs and replace them with a block grant.

The bill provides $2.58 billion for state and local grants, which is $557 million above the House level.  The bill rejects the House proposal to eliminate the Urban Area Security Initiative, Port Security Grants, and Transit Security Grants and other programs and replace them with a block grant.

Included in the total are the following amounts:
·        State Homeland Security Grant Program - $430 million. 
o   Within the total, Operation Stonegarden - $50 million
·        Urban Area Security Initiative - $400 million
·        Emergency Operations Centers - $15 million
·        Port Security Grants - $200 million
·        Transit Security Grants - $200 million

No specific funding is provided for Citizens Corps, Driver’s License Security, Buffer Zone Protection Program, Metropolitan Medical Response System and Interoperable Emergency Communications grants.

Activities previously funded under these programs are eligible in the funded programs; – $10 million to help state and local communities cover law enforcement and other costs associated with hosting National Special Security Events such as the Asia Pacific Economic Conference

The bill provides $350 million for Emergency Management Performance Grants, $11 million above the FY 2011 level.

The following graphic displays the level of UASI funding since the inception of the program.

While this continues a steep decline in funding, the good news is that the cuts were not as much as proposed by the House of Representatives.  It is not clear at this point what the number of UASI grantees may total. Last year, the number of UASIs was reduced from 64 to 31 – with the level of funding proposed, this is an additional 40% cut to the program.

This may leave additional UASI cities off the list for FY 2012.