Last week FEMA released it’s Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (THIRA) Guide. This is a key element in implementation of PPD-8, the achievement of the National Preparedness Goal, and for justifying grant requests under the newly consolidated DHS grant program.
As otherwise explained by FEMA administrators, the THIRA includes a five step process for identifying top priorities:
- Identify the threats and hazards of concern - What could happen in my community?
- Give the threats and hazards context - Describe how a threat or hazard could happen in my community, and when and where it could happen.
- Examine the core capabilities using the threats and hazards - How would each threat or hazard affect the core capabilities identified in the National Preparedness Goal?
- Set capability targets - Using the information above, set the level of capability a community needs to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from its risks.
- Apply the results - Use the capability targets to decide how to use resources from the Whole Community.
This is a gross simplification, but a jurisdiction — or much better, collaborative jurisdictions — can use the THIRA to identify threats, vulnerabilities, and consequences. Then using the 31 core capabilities in the National Preparedness Goal, the jurisdictions can think through what they need, what they have, and any capability gaps they want to fill. Then they make their case for federal funding to preserve current capabilities or fill current gaps. Presumably they will also decide where to focus priorities with or without federal funding.
Pretty reasonable all-in-all. But if you are anywhere around this process you already know many are not happy (to be understated).
Unhappiness was probably guaranteed. There’s a lot less money to distribute.
The Department and OMB amplified the unhappiness by eliminating most of the the individual grant programs (buckets, rice bowls, etc.). Ever read, Who Moved My Cheese?
I perceive — on absolutely no authority — that someone decided if the states and locals are going to scream and shout anyway, let’s go ahead and rationalize the process. Instead of DHS dividing up the cheese, let’s devolve this process to the states so that key strategic decisions are made holistically by those closest to the vulnerabilities, threats, and options.
No one asked my opinion, but I might well have offered such advice.
Glad no one asked for my advice.
On March 20 there was a hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee, Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications. It was an old-fashioned sort of hearing. Authentic questions were asked. Complicated answers were accepted without attack. Democrats and Republicans were civil to each other and often agreed with each other. They especially agreed that consolidation of DHS grant programs was a bad idea.
The strongest testimony of the day was probably that of Michael Nutter, Mayor of Philadelphia, following is an excerpt of his prepared testimony, very close to what he said aloud:
We are very concerned about the increased role which states will play in determining where and how funds would be spent:
With increased authority, the Commonwealth will likely augment the already bureaucratic processes required to purchase equipment. Even now, prior to increased oversight and authority, the Commonwealth has added additional layers to the equipment acquisition process thus limiting the ability of local jurisdictions to spend down their grant funds and obtain much needed equipment
Further, the Commonwealth already has a track record of re-distributing funding away from urban areas and re-allocating that funding to other areas of the Commonwealth. For example, in FY2011, PEMA reallocated the State Homeland Security Grant Program (SHSGP) funding away from the Philadelphia Urban Area to other Task Forces within the Commonwealth.
The SHSGP distribution is historically based on population index, economic index, and critical infrastructure points. Based on this formula alone, the Philadelphia Urban Area was slated to receive the largest award amount. While we were bracing for a 50 percent cut due to an overall decrease in funding, we actually received an 85.46 percent reduction in the SHSGP grant.
There are nine Task Forces in the Commonwealth. One received a 50 percent SHSGP cut and the others received 25 percent reductions. This demonstrates a disproportionate impact on Philadelphia that does not align with the historical grant allocation guidelines.
Subcommittee members seemed unanimous in their concern and amazement at such behavior by Pennsylvania. Evidently antipathy to the executive branch — either federal or state — can be especially effective at bringing legislators to common cause.
I was reminded of a meeting last month with public safety leaders in a city overlooking the Pacific. When someone (not me!) suggested seeking State support for a homeland security measure the immediate response was raucous laughter. It was the sort of laughter that renewed itself, grew stronger, and actually caused one firefighter to laugh himself into tears, which of course prompted even more laughter.
About three months ago I was in an urban county’s Emergency Management Agency listening to one complaint after another aimed at FEMA. Perhaps sensing some impatience on my part, the Director said, “Oh, don’t think we’re being too tough on FEMA. They’re our best friends compared to (insert name of state capital). We actively hate (insert name of state EMA). FEMA wants us to focus where we don’t want to focus, even though we sometimes should (latter phrase probably inserted only for my benefit). The state is just pure incompetent.”
The picture at the top shows a 30 foot statue that stands in a plaza between Philadelphia City Hall and the Municipal Services Building. Conceived in bronze by Jacques Lipchitz, it shows several human figures entwined in each other, holding each other, perhaps lifting each other up (or is it holding each other down?). It’s convoluted, even confusing. The statue is called “Government of the People”.
Who says modern art isn’t allegorical.