Jobs Plan Includes $1B for SAFER, $10B for D-Block

Fire service proponents say Congress has a huge challenge ahead of it.


President Obama's jobs proposal delivered to Congress last week includes $1B for SAFER and $10B for the build out of D-Block, the public safety network.

Read the American Jobs Act

In addition to re-hiring and hiring fire and rescue personnel, 20 percent of the SAFER money would be ear-marked for volunteer departments for recruiting and retention.

In a prepared statement, IAFF President Harold Schaitberger said: "If approved, the funding would be sufficient to rehire every laid-off fire fighter (sic) and still add thousands of new positions."

Obama's proposal for the SAFER boost would be in addition to the $375M that the Senate Appropriations Committee recently passed.

Bill Webb, executive director of the Congressional Fire Services Institute, said his organization and others will be working to get the funds for both approved.

"We will be working both sides of the aisle," he said. "This is important."

He said the proceeds from the auction of D-block as well as Obama's proposed allocation will go a long way toward building the much-needed network for public safety.

During his State of the Union address earlier this year, Obama said he supported the vital communications network for responders.

Auctioning the airwaves as proposed by both public safety officials and wireless carriers, could generate as much as $3.1B which would go toward building the link.

A Bipartisan Policy Center's National Security Preparedness Group that reviewed the 9/11 Commission's recommendations said in a report issued last week: "Despite the lives at stake, the recommendation to improve radio interoperability for first responders has stalled because of a political fight over whether to allocate 10 MHz of radio spectrum -- the D-block -- directly to public safety for a nationwide network."

They added: "Since 9/11, faltering advances were made as some radio spectrum in the 700 MHz band were allocated to public safety, but it remains largely unused by first responders. The overwhelming majority of our nation's police chiefs and leaders of first responder agencies support the allocation of the D-block to the existing dedicated public safety spectrum in order to construct a nationwide, interoperable public safety broadband network.

"This network would allow diverse public safety agencies to communicate with each other, and support mission critical voice, video, text, and other data transmissions."

The report was co-chaired by Thomas Kean, chairman of the 9/11 Commission, and Lee Hamilton, vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission.

About the president's proposal last week, Schaitberger added: "President Obama proved to the public safety community that he gets it. His jobs proposal will put fire fighters (sic) back to work and prevent layoffs."

Webb said he understands that Congress as a huge challenge ahead. "We need to resuscitate the economy and get people, including firefighters, back to work."

Boosting the AFG grants benefits not only helps fire and rescue departments that desperately need equipment, but manufacturers as well, Webb said adding that about 95 percent of the apparatus and other items purchased are made in the United States.