Task force to study first-responder funding

The Homeland Security Department this week established a task force to address concerns from local officials that they aren't receiving federal first-responder funding fast enough.

The task force, which includes governors, mayors and county officials, will identify effective state and local funding systems that can be used in situations in which state and local homeland security funds cannot be distributed efficiently.

'It is critical that the men and women on the frontlines of the war against terror have the resources they need to do their jobs,' said DHS secretary Tom Ridge. 'By identifying best practices and determining ways to implement them across the country, the task force will be able to put homeland security dollars into the hands of first responders more rapidly.'

The 20-member task force will operate under the Homeland Security Advisory Council and its state and local and emergency response advisory committees. Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will serve as the task force chairman.

Homeland Security has made $8 billion available to state and local governments. The president's proposed 2005 budget contains an additional $5 billion in state and local funding.

The DHS Office of Domestic Preparedness provides the funds to the states, which are required to forward 80 percent to localities. States are allowed to keep 20 percent to support first responders.

The department has taken more than a half-dozen steps to speed funding to first responders. These include integrating grants listings, pre-approving state or urban security strategies if outstanding issues are quickly addressed, and requiring states to provide funds to local jurisdictions within 60 days of receiving grant packages.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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