The Obama Administration recently released its fiscal year 2010 budget, and as in the past, the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program is funded nowhere near the level of need. The Administration proposed only $170 million for the FIRE Act grants — a 70% reduction from fiscal year 2009. On...
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The word on Capitol Hill is that the May 22 proposal received a less-than-positive reception, which could result in some fire service organizations modifying their original positions on fiscal year 2010 AFG funding levels. Even so, as the appropriations process continues through the House and Senate, there could still be opportunities to accomplish the goal of $420 million for SAFER and $565 million for FIRE, though it will probably be very difficult to achieve. The members of the Fire Services Caucus in Congress has significant influence in the House and Senate and they, along with other members, could provide advocacy as the AFG Program moves through the authorization and appropriation processes. In the recent past, congressional staff and the Washington, DC, media have lauded the fire service for its ability to garner grass-roots support among its members to achieve goals that can have widespread impact. This capability is probably more important now, in these economic times, than it's been in several years.
One significant way to accomplish the desired results is for fire service members and stakeholders to contact their members of the House of Representatives and Senate in the near future to share with them the critical importance of the AFG Program (SAFER and FIRE) to local fire departments and public safety in their own states. Hearing directly from their constituents back home can carry a lot of weight and influence their decisions, including the final fiscal year 2010 AFG appropriation. It could also be helpful to communicate these concerns to the offices of the chairmen and ranking members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security and the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security who are currently working on the appropriation.
There's Time to Act
One could only hope that these individual and collective congressional contacts could result in an outcome that is consistent with the funding levels the fire service originally proposed to appropriators ($420 million for SAFER and $565 million for FIRE). This total, when combined with the $210 million the fire service has been allocated for fire station construction in the economic stimulus bill, would be quite an achievement.
Is this an incredibly difficult outcome to achieve? Yes, but not an impossible one. The AFG Program is worth using whatever influence the fire service has to maintain SAFER and FIRE funding at the highest levels possible so they both are as effective as possible.
DENNIS COMPTON, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a well-known speaker and the author of several books, including the When in Doubt, Lead series. He is also co-editor of the current edition of the ICMA textbook Managing Fire and Rescue Services. Compton was the fire chief in Mesa, AZ, for five years and assistant fire chief in Phoenix, AZ, where he served for 27 years. Compton is the past chair of the Executive Board of the International Fire Service Training Association (IFSTA) and past chair of the Congressional Fire Services Institute's National Advisory Committee. He is also chairman of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation Board of Directors and the chairman of the Home Safety Council Board of Directors.