Good morning Chairman Voinovich and Members of the Subcommittee. I am Michael Brown, Under Secretary for the Emergency Preparedness and Response Directorate of the Department of Homeland Security, which includes the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Since becoming part of the Emergency Preparedness and Response Directorate (EP&R) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), FEMA has continued its traditional role of preparing for, mitigating against, responding to, and recovering from disasters caused by all hazards.
Over the last two weeks, we have worked closely with the States and our Federal partners to effectively respond to Hurricane Isabel – and all within the new structure of DHS. DHS brought its resources to bear in response to Hurricane Isabel in order to protect the public. We deployed key new assets, including the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) teams. The U.S. Coast Guard also deployed its assets to assist in the response effort. All of our response efforts have been coordinated Department-wide through the DHS emergency operations center.
Our Hurricane Liaison Team was invaluable in arranging up to the minute meteorological information and predictions from the National Hurricane Center and other National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) components for State and local officials and emergency managers in the path of the storm. We established mobilization centers at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, and Edison, New Jersey, and staging areas at Ft. A. P. Hill, Virginia, and Columbus, Ohio. Advanced elements of our Emergency Response Teams and our State Liaisons were dispatched before the storm to the affected States and the District of Columbia to coordinate disaster response activities. Many other assets which we positioned from Alabama to New York were also critical to staging an effective response including the Rapid Needs Assessment Teams, National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) Disaster Medical Assistance Teams, Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces, Mobile Emergency Response Support Detachments, Environmental Protection Agency HazMat Teams, Army Corps of Engineers, Forest Service, General Services Administration, Department of Energy, and Department of Health and Human Services Teams.
But, we must not rest on our past achievements. As in all major incidents, we will learn valuable lessons from the Hurricane Isabel response. The key to our continued improvement will be taking these lessons and incorporating them into our planning, doctrine, and procedures to ensure our continued improvement. DHS will continue working with the Congress and our Federal partners, State and local leaders, and other affected stakeholders and partners to continue to enhance our ability to respond effectively to all types of disasters.
Prior to joining DHS, the focus of the disaster programs within FEMA was an all-hazards approach. This focus remains today, and in fact it benefits from the more global perspective of DHS and its related components. I am proud of our response to the Hurricane Isabel disaster on the east coast because it clearly demonstrates our steady improvement in coordinating and leading Federal, State, tribal and local response efforts to protect life and property in times of disaster. The seamless collaboration of the different response elements in the Department of Homeland Security, as well as those in other Federal departments and agencies, allowed for a rapid and effective positioning of disaster assets and capabilities throughout the eastern United States to quickly provide any assistance needed by States and communities to protect the life and property of their citizens.
We at FEMA are proud to be doing our part to secure the homeland, and I am proud to be a part of an organization made up of so many fine and dedicated individuals. FEMA’s greatest asset is its people. As we have transitioned into DHS, we have continued our efforts to ensure that FEMA’s workforce remains one of the finest in the Federal government through the development of a comprehensive strategic Human Capital Plan. We have also continued to work to integrate the new missions into FEMA’s structure. We are working with the Department of Health and Human Services on a wide array of issues including finalizing the consolidation of staff in the FEMA headquarters building within the next few months, fully integrating NDMS assets into the FEMA response structure and enhancing the operational readiness of NDMS teams.
Since becoming part of the Department of Homeland Security, FEMA has continued to carry out its mission to prepare for, mitigate against, respond to, and recover from disasters of all kinds. It is a great honor for me to serve Secretary Tom Ridge as I lead FEMA into a new era as part of DHS.
In order to achieve our mission more efficiently, FEMA has been divided into four disciplines – Preparedness, Mitigation, Response, and Recovery. This organizational alignment reflects the traditional areas of emergency management. It also resembles the organizational flow used by many States, who continue to be our principal partners in emergency management.
Since joining DHS on March 1, FEMA’s Preparedness Division has continued to implement its grants and training programs and has already gained assets in the transition. The Preparedness Division had the opportunity to test its capabilities during exercises including the nationwide Top Officials 2 exercise (TOPOFF2) in May 2003; to provide funding to State, tribal, and local governments; and to forge strong working relationships with the Office for Domestic Preparedness (ODP), which is also now part of DHS.
The recent TOPOFF2 exercise served as a good test of significant new organizational structures and provided some good lessons as to how our efforts can be improved. It tested new procedures, such as our operational relationship with the DHS Crisis Assessment Team and systems transferred to DHS, such as the Strategic National Stockpile. Exercises such as TOPOFF2 allow us to pinpoint challenges to help ensure a better response and a more timely delivery of assistance.
Although national level exercises like TOPOFF2 are important and valuable, community-based exercises are equally important for a comprehensive and truly effective national exercise program. Several months ago, a train carrying hazardous materials derailed near Laguna, New Mexico. Fortunately, local emergency responders and the New Mexico Office of Emergency Services were ready. A response exercise held just weeks earlier had prepared responders for such an event. The bottom line is that community-based exercises work, and they work at the first responder level. In cooperation with ODP, FEMA is continuing to support a robust, multi-tiered system of exercises.
As a sign of the growing national interest in individual and community preparedness, Citizen Corps has increased its number of local councils by 377 since March 1, for a total of more than 628 Councils in 51 States and territories. Councils are serving nearly 35 percent of the U.S. population or approximately 90 million people. Five new affiliates have partnered with Citizen Corps since March, including the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce, the National Volunteer Fire Council, the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, the Points of Light Foundation, and the National Safety Council.
Additionally, Federal affiliates have partnered with Citizen Corps. On July 29, 2003, Tom Dunne, EPA’s Associate Assistant Administrator for the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, signed an agreement adding EPA as an affiliate with Citizen Corp. NOAA and the Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools have also signed agreements.
A key component of Citizen Corps is the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program, which helps train citizens to be better prepared to respond to emergency situations in their communities. In May 2003, DHS provided nearly $19 million in grant funds to States and territories to expand the CERT program through additional State-offered Train-the-Trainer courses and to help communities start CERT programs and expand existing teams. When I announced these grants in Olathe, Kansas, I had the good fortune to meet Community Emergency Response Team members who worked together to help their neighbors recover from the destructive tornadoes in the Midwest this past spring. This is a fine example of what CERT can accomplish.
Our National Emergency Training Center, which includes the National Fire Academy and the Emergency Management Institute, continues to provide training to the leaders of the fire service and emergency management communities. We train more than 16,000 students a year on campus and more than 100,000 students a year through off-campus programs with our partners in the State fire and emergency management training systems. We also have trained over 185,000 students this year through our Independent Study Program. Our training prepares the fire, EMS and emergency management community, as well as local officials all across the country. With the addition of Noble Training Center in Anniston, Alabama, our capabilities are being expanded, and we will be able to reach more personnel than ever before.
DHS is committed to helping fire fighters improve their effectiveness and stay safe. The responsibilities of the fire service have increased since 9/11 to include planning for and responding to possible terrorist attacks. So far this fiscal year, DHS has awarded over $250 million to fire departments through the Assistance to Firefighters grant program.
Given the recommendations to better consolidate and coordinate grants for first responders and terrorism preparedness, the President’s Budget for FY 2004 requested that Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program be placed within ODP. In order for State and local governments to be effective partners with the Federal government in securing the homeland, they need quick and easy access to terrorism and emergency preparedness grant programs designed to support their work. Prior to the formation of the Department of Homeland Security, information about terrorism and emergency preparedness grant programs were scattered throughout the Federal government. Many are now centered within DHS, though still divided among our various components. To make them even more accessible, Secretary Ridge announced plans to centralize these programs within a single office. State and local authorities will soon have a single point of contact for terrorism and emergency preparedness efforts - one access point to obtain critical grant funding. It will help ensure that nationwide, State and local officials have one place in the Department where they can tap into the resources and information they need, from applying for funds to protect critical infrastructure to receiving funding for first responders.
As a Department we have not waited to begin new initiatives that leverage the resources of the Federal government in support of our first responders and first preventers. For example, DHS and the Department of Justice COPS program coordinated the application and review of their separate appropriations for interoperable communication pilot programs. This innovative DHS/DOJ partnership demonstrated Federal leadership and illustrates the importance of integrating multiple disciplines in addressing the nation’s preparedness needs. In the coming weeks, the Departments will be announcing approximately $150 million in pilot project grants that will establish best practices and help develop unique solutions to the interoperable communication issues that have hampered our first responders.
The Response Division continues working hard to consolidate and integrate our existing and new disaster response assets, teams, systems, programs and responsibilities into the Emergency Preparedness and Response Directorate to create a more unified and comprehensive all-hazards disaster response capability. We are looking into new approaches that can result in greater efficiency and effectiveness in our disaster response activities. I am confident that over time we will be able to introduce a new response culture, one that will enable us to elevate our operational response capabilities to a higher level of proficiency and ensure better protection of and service to the American people.
The Response Division’s structure is based on the Incident Management System so that it is optimally aligned to meet the needs of State and local responders and designed to meet the President’s direction to establish a National Incident Management System (NIMS) and National Response Plan (NRP). On February 28, 2003, the President established a single, comprehensive national incident management system and provided for the integration of separate Federal response plans into a single all-discipline, all-hazards national response plan. The Secretary of Homeland Security is responsible for developing and implementing both initiatives. FEMA has been actively participating in the effort to develop the National Response Plan (NRP) and a framework for National Incident Management System (NIMS). We are also a co-facilitator and have regional participation on the State, tribal and local NIMS/NRP workgroup, which is an intergovernmental advisory group assembled to provide State and local input, guidance and expertise to the NRP/NIMS revision efforts. As directed in the Department of Homeland Security Act of 2002, FEMA will play a key role in the management and maintenance of NIMS once it is developed.
The Response Division is pulling together critical national response assets formerly maintained within other Federal agencies, such as the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS), the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS), the Domestic Emergency Support Team (DEST), and the Nuclear Incident Response Team (NIRT). Different options are under consideration on the best way to staff and deploy these teams and integrate these assets into a mission capable operation that builds upon our existing and proven disaster response foundation. The Response Division is also initiating steps to create dedicated, rapid-deployment DHS Incident Management Teams that would form the initial core on-scene management component of the Federal disaster response capability interfacing with the State/local Incident Commander. The teams have not been fielded yet but are an important aspect of FEMA’s implementation of Homeland Security Presidential Directive-5. We plan to staff, train, and equip the teams over the next year.
We are coordinating with different elements of DHS to enhance the operational readiness and capability of our National Emergency Operations Center (NEOC), Regional Operations Centers, NDMS, DEST, Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Task Forces, Mobile Emergency Response Support elements, and other specialized disaster response teams to respond to protect the nation in times of disaster.
In addition, the Response Division is taking steps to reduce disaster response times so that eventually disaster teams will be able to respond anywhere in the country within 12 hours and disaster logistics packages, commodities, and equipment can be delivered anywhere in the country within 24 hours of a disaster declaration. A pilot test of a prototype disaster logistics pre-deployment program is being planned as part of our efforts to ensure that we provide maximum assistance to help State and local governments meet immediate disaster needs in the first 24 hours of a disaster while additional disaster response commodities and equipment are enroute.
We are placing additional emphasis on increasing patient evacuation capabilities and conducting more hospital training and exercises under NDMS, improving coordination of Strategic National Stockpile activities, and working to ensure that US&R Task Forces can safely respond to weapons of mass destruction incidents with the necessary medical screening and equipment.
Work continues with the Department of Health and Human Services on a wide array of issues including finalizing the consolidation of staff in the FEMA headquarters building within the next few months, fully integrating NDMS assets into the FEMA response structure, and enhancing the operational readiness of NDMS teams. We are also finalizing guidance that will clarify and specify in greater detail DHS and HHS roles and responsibilities agreed to under the Memorandum of Agreement the two departments signed related to the SNS.
Over the next few years we intend to focus much more attention on completing catastrophic all-hazards planning for our most vulnerable cities. Some work has already been accomplished in this area, but we want to make sure as we move forward that we are addressing those issues that are most critical to State and local officials in responding to a truly catastrophic disaster. We are also drawing up a plan to develop the capability to provide intermediate emergency housing for up to 100,000 displaced disaster victims within 60 days of a disaster, a situation that we could be easily faced following a truly catastrophic disaster. Different options are being reviewed including the possibility of using portable housing solutions involving trailers, manufactured homes, modular housing, and other innovative approaches. Our goal is to develop a methodology and template that will provide useful planning and operational tools for all levels of government.
The consolidation of national response assets allows the Federal government not only to continue to provide the services which existed prior to the establishment of DHS to which the American people have become accustomed during emergencies and disasters, but also to enhance our ability to maximize Federal resources, streamline delivery processes, and directly focus programs and assets on meeting State and local needs.
The good work that FEMA continues to do after being incorporated into the Department of Homeland Security is a commentary on how well the transition has gone.
Since the March 1 transition into DHS, FEMA has provided disaster relief in 50 Presidentially-declared disasters and emergencies in 34 States and one territory from Alaska to New York to American Samoa. These disasters include such events as the President’s Day snowstorm and the devastating tornadoes that struck the Midwest and South in May. Most recently, of course, we have been dealing with Hurricane Isabel.
When I traveled to these disaster areas, I had the opportunity to meet with some of the victims. Their lives had been totally devastated. They had lost family members. They had lost their homes. I cannot adequately describe in words the impact of looking into the eyes of people who have lost everything. But when things are at their worst, our people are at their best – I have never been more proud to be a part of the Federal organization that already had individuals on the ground providing assistance to those in need and getting the process of disaster recovery underway.
The Committee has expressed an interest in the GAO report on the Public Assistance Program as implemented in New York following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. While the GAO report does not address FEMA’s performance or provide specific recommendations, it does note some differences in the delivery of assistance that I would like to take this opportunity to emphasize. FEMA implemented the Public Assistance Program, which provides State and local governments reimbursement for debris removal, emergency protective measures, and/or the repair or replacement of public damaged facilities. However, the Consolidated Appropriations Resolution of 2003 provided some flexibility that allowed recovery operations for New York to move more quickly. The resolution directed FEMA to fund non-Stafford Act 9/11 related projects with any remaining funds from the appropriation it received for the September 11 terrorist attacks in P.L. 107-117, after eligible projects had been funded. This flexibility did not forfeit accountability or detract from the effectiveness of the program.
In our ongoing efforts to assist the recovery from the terrorist attacks of September 11, FEMA has also finalized a Memorandum of Understanding with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to fulfill requirements in the Consolidated Appropriations Resolution of 2003. This agreement is providing $90 million for administering baseline and follow-up screening, clinical exams, and health monitoring for emergency services, rescue, and recovery personnel. I know this issue is of particular interest to you Mr. Chairman, Senator Clinton and the rest of the Subcommittee with regard to the legislation you have recently introduced and considered.
Since the integration into DHS, the Mitigation Division has focused primarily on two Presidential initiatives: the flood map modernization program and pre-disaster mitigation. This groundwork sets the stage for results for the rest of this fiscal year and beyond.
We have nearly $200 million available for our flood map modernization program this fiscal year – $149 million appropriated by Congress and $50 million in National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policyholder fees.
The funding enables us to embark on a multi-year effort to update and digitize our flood map inventory. Updating flood insurance rate maps will make community assessment of flood risks more accurate and improve floodplain management decisions. An updated map inventory will also provide the basis for prudent flood insurance decisions and an actuarially sound insurance rating.
Flood risk identification is central to informing decision-makers at all levels of government and in helping to shape their assessment of risks. Effective flood hazard mitigation hinges, in the final analysis, on accurate identification of the risk. A sustained commitment to the President’s initiative for updating the NFIP’s flood map inventory will result in even more effective risk reduction.
Our flood map modernization initiative reflects, too, the President’s overall management agenda: the effort will be citizen-centered, results-oriented, and market-based. We have been laying the groundwork for this significant undertaking and plan to award a contract for the flood map modernization program soon.
We have also continued our commitment to hazard mitigation programs. This fiscal year, Congress appropriated $149 million for the Pre-disaster Mitigation (PDM) Program and directed that grants be awarded on a competitive basis and without reference to state allocations, quotas, or other formula-based allocation.
The PDM program provides a significant opportunity to raise risk awareness and to reduce the Nation’s disaster losses through mitigation planning that includes risk assessment, and the implementation of pre-identified, cost-effective mitigation measures before disasters occur. Examples of these measures include retrofitting existing structures to protect against natural hazard events and acquisition and relocation of flood-prone structures. Funding these hazard mitigation plans and projects will reduce overall risks to the population and infrastructure and - in the long-term - will reduce reliance on funding from disaster assistance programs following an event.
We are requesting that the PDM program be reauthorized through FY 09 to allow us to continue to implement this critical initiative. We have worked closely with States, tribal governments, and territories over the past months to share the PDM concepts through a number of outreach opportunities, including meetings with the National Emergency Managers Association and the Association of State Floodplain Managers, and have conducted state mitigation workshops in all 10 FEMA regions. We have also developed an electronic grants system for stakeholders to electronically create, review, and submit grant applications for the PDM program through the Internet, which will enable us to review and evaluate grant applications more efficiently.
As part of the Department of Homeland Security, FEMA has continued to carry out its mission to prepare for, mitigate against, respond to, and recover from disasters and emergencies caused by all-hazards. And we will continue to do so.
I appreciate the opportunity to testify before you today. I would be glad to answer any questions that you have.