Barletta Statement from Hearing on the National Preparedness System
Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management
Hearing on “Building a 21st Century Infrastructure for America: The National Preparedness System”
March 16, 2017
(Remarks as Prepared)
Welcome to our first subcommittee hearing of the 115th Congress. I would like to thank Chairman Shuster for giving me the opportunity to serve again as chairman of this Subcommittee. Welcome to our new Ranking Member, Mr. Johnson. And welcome to the new and returning members of the Subcommittee.
I look forward to building on our bipartisan record of accomplishment from the last two Congresses. Since 2013, we have saved 3.4 billion dollars on GSA projects, passed the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act, passed the Federal Assets Sale and Transfer Act, and continued to look for ways to drive down rising disaster costs and losses. These were major accomplishments and I thank everyone involved in them.
This Congress my two top priorities are public buildings reform and disaster legislation. I think we can exceed the GSA savings from last Congress, and we have some important reforms to get across the finish line in the emergency management world. I hope we can have disaster legislation and a GSA reform bill ready for the committee to consider in the first half of this year.
The purpose of today’s hearing is to look at the resources and investments that have gone into building the National Preparedness System, which was authorized 10 years ago in the Post Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act.
Since 2003, more than $47 billion in preparedness grant funding has been provided to state, territorial, local, and Tribal governments to help reach the current level of national preparedness. This funding has helped these entities prepare to rebuild our infrastructure and communities when disaster strikes.
The State Homeland Security Grant Program and the Urban Areas Security Initiative help first responders prepare for potential acts of terrorism by supporting planning, training, and equipment needs. The Assistance to Firefighters Grant program, (including the SAFER and Fire Prevention and Safety grants), help fire departments improve their baseline emergency response capability. The Emergency Management Performance Grant provides federal funding to state and local governments for planning, training, exercises, and key emergency management personnel. Port Security Grant funds are used to secure and harden port facilities against the potential of a terror attack. These grants plays an important role in building and sustaining the National Preparedness System.
As a former mayor, I know all too well what it means to be a good neighbor, and how critical help from your surrounding communities can be in times of emergency. No single community can handle every disaster on its own; and no community can afford all of the equipment and personnel to handle every disaster. These grants make it possible for mutual aid between communities and across our country.
For example, every city can’t afford a Level One Urban Search and Rescue Team. In fact, if every city had a team, the teams wouldn’t have enough resources and would receive sufficient training because already limited resources would be spread too thin.
But during a big disaster, help pours in from all directions in a timely manner. And emergency managers make this possible. They get the right resources to the right place in the fastest time. Their actions save lives and property. So we have to make sure that investments in the National Preparedness System are wise investments and the taxpayer is getting the biggest bang for its buck.
We also need to make sure that resources are being directed to where they are needed most. Over the past 15 years, we have made significant progress in improving the Nation’s ability to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from disasters, both natural and man-made.
But what work remains to be done?
For example, I know many fire departments still lack the most basic requirements for a safe and effective response. Many firefighters still share personal protective equipment and gear. In addition, other fire departments are operating with severely outdated and sometimes inoperable equipment. The AFG and SAFER programs help local fire departments meet these critical needs.
In Pennsylvania, 97 percent of our fire departments are all or mostly volunteer. In my own district, the Freeland Fire Department was able to obtain a Fire Grant for 103 sets of Personal Protective Equipment, replacing outdated equipment which does not meet current safety standards. This equipment is essential for firefighters to do their job and to keep them safe.
I also have another community trying to replace a 42 year old fire engine. Without these grant funds, these communities would not be able to secure this needed equipment.
While we are talking about the firefighter community, please let me take one minute to recognize a devastating loss in Harrisburg. Last Friday night, Lieutenant Dennis DeVoe of Mount Pleasant Fire Company Number Eight, was killed by a drunk driver while trying to respond to a deadly house fire. Mr. Martynuska, please carry our prayers and condolences back to the Pennsylvania firefighter community and to Lieutenant DeVoe’s wife and four children.
I'm also particularly concerned right now about the recent wave of bomb threats to Jewish community centers across the country. Over the last two decades, Jewish institutions have been the target of domestic terrorist attacks. The current threats are outrageous, and we must do more to protect these targeted institutions.
FEMA has been charged with the difficult task of developing and managing the many components that build the national preparedness system—from the national preparedness goal, hazard and risk assessments, state and federal preparedness reports, and preparedness grants.
Today, we have brought together the key stakeholders that receive various preparedness funds to understand how they leverage this federal investment to build national preparedness. These stakeholders represent our nation’s first responders and emergency managers.
These are the people who work daily to build preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation capabilities to make our communities more resilient to vulnerabilities, regardless of cause.
I look forward to the conversations we will have today on the successes our Nation has achieved and where we need to focus to continue to build a prepared 21st century infrastructure.
Click here for additional information from today’s hearing, including testimony, video, and background information.