On their April 8, 2008 news release titled "House Passes U.S. Fire Administration Reauthorization Bill," the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) announced that the U.S. House of representatives passed the U.S. Fire Administration Reauthorization Act (H.R. 4847). This legislation would authorize a budget of $70 million for the USFA in fiscal year 2009 to $76.5 million in fiscal year 2012. The bill is now sent to the U.S. Senate for consideration. The Senate companion bill is S. 2606, which was introduced by Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Joe Biden (D-DE), Christopher Dodd (D-CT), and Susan Collins (R-ME).
In highlighting the significance of this accomplishment, IAFC President and Chief Steven Westermann said "this is an important step in securing the future of the USFA. We look forward to ensuring final passage of this legislation this year." Recognizing that the USFA's current budget of $43.3 million for the 2008 fiscal year was proposed to be cut to only $40.9 million in the president's proposed budget for the fiscal year 2009; we should all hail the heroic efforts that all our fire service leaders have put forward to protect and support the USFA.
I believe that it is of utmost importance for us to acknowledge that many of our brightest, determined, and most dedicated fire service leaders have fought tirelessly for very many years to maintain funding for the USFA, and to establish the federal fire grant program. And their efforts should be applauded even more, once we recognize that, year after year, they still have to step up to the plate for us, and fend off the many attempts seeking reduction of the USFA's budget and elimination of the federal fire grant program. It is also immensely important to recognize the great commitment and the hard work of many of the yesteryears dedicated staff, that fought so hard in the beginning to get the USFA established and then up and running, despite all the budgetary struggles they faced year after year.
To us in the fire service, USFA is of colossal importance and its national leadership is instrumental. A historical perspective could better emphasize the significance of the USFA in addressing our country's fire problem, and should underline the importance of the fire service's commitment to the financial and organizational well-being of this institution.
After two years of extensive and in-depth analysis, one of the most important recommendations of the National Commission on Fire Prevention and Control in their famous 1973 American Burning report was the establishment of the U.S. Fire Administration. President Ford's signing of the "Federal Fire Prevention and Control Act of 1974", Public Law 93-498 (PL 93-498), on October 29, 1974, was the official conception of the USFA.
In their 1973 America Burning report, the Commission mentioned that "the Federal Government must at some cost help the Nation attack the fire problem if any significant reduction in fire losses is to be achieved...This Commission believes that a reduction of 50 percent in deaths, injuries, and property losses is quite possible within the next generation. This can be attained by a declining balance reduction of 5 percent per year."
The Commission's objectives and recommendations had roots back in the 1947 President's Conference on Fire Prevention; and then afterwards, directly reflected in the various many national recommendations since, such as the 1987 America Burning Revisited, and finally the 2000 America Burning Recommissioned reports.
The Commission recommended an initial total annual budget of $125 million for the U.S. Fire Administration. They fully recognized that this was only a bare minimum, and emphasized "the projected costs in Table 19-2 can serve as indication of minimum operating program needs and as a starting point for discussion".
Yet, it seems that from the very moment of inception of the USFA, there was a big discrepancy between the federal government's words and actions when it came to supporting the newly established USFA. Simply stated, our government never "put the money where the mouth was".