Order Code RS20071
May 20, 2005
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
United States Fire Administration:
Lennard G. Kruger
Specialist in Science and Technology
Resources, Science, and Industry Division
The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) — which includes the National Fire
Academy (NFA) — is an entity within the Federal Emergency Management Agency
(FEMA), now part of the Emergency Preparedness and Response Directorate of the
Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Its objective is to significantly reduce the
nation’s loss of life from fire, while also achieving a reduction in property loss and nonfatal injury due to fire. A major issue in the 109th Congress is the viability and status of
the USFA and NFA within the Department of Homeland Security. Currently, fire service
groups are expressing concerns that USFA and NFA programs are being progressively
diminished by DHS, pointing to reductions in the USFA and NFA budgets since FEMA
was incorporated into DHS. Meanwhile, the FY2004 National Defense Authorization
(P.L. 108-136) contains a provision (the “SAFER Act”) which establishes a federal grant
program administered by USFA to provide funding to fire departments for hiring
personnel. While no money was appropriated for SAFER grants in FY2004, and the
Administration requested no funding for SAFER grants in FY2005, the FY2005
Homeland Security Appropriations Act (P.L. 108-334) provides SAFER Act grants with
$65 million for FY2005. The Administration is requesting no funding of the SAFER
grants for FY2006. On May 17, 2005 the House passed H.R. 2360, the FY2006
Homeland Security Appropriations bill. The House appropriation is $75 million for
SAFER Act grants. This report will be updated as events warrant.
The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) is currently an entity within the Federal
Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) , now part of the Emergency Preparedness and
Response Directorate of the Department of Homeland Security. Its mission is to provide
leadership, coordination, and support for the nation’s fire prevention and control, fire
training and education, and emergency medical services activities . USFA’s ultimate
objective is to significantly reduce the nation’s loss of life from fire, while also achieving
a reduction in property loss and non-fatal injury due to fire. Although fire loss has
improved significantly over the past 25 years, the fire problem in the U.S. remains
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
serious. The U.S. still has one of the highest fire death rates in the industrialized world,
with 14.8 deaths per million population. According to the National Fire Protection
Association, there were 3, 925 civilian fire deaths in 2003, with property loss estimated
at $12.3 billion.1 According to the U.S. Fire Administration, there were 107 firefighter
duty-related deaths in 2004.2
The genesis of USFA and FEMA’s fire prevention and control activities can be
found in the landmark 1973 report of the National Commission on Fire Prevention and
Control,3 entitled America Burning. The Commission recommended the creation of a
federal fire agency which would provide support to state and local governments and
private fire organizations in their efforts to reduce fire deaths, injuries, and property loss.
The Commission recommended that this new agency be placed within the Department of
Housing and Urban Development. Congress instead opted to place the agency in the
Department of Commerce, and with the passage of the Federal Fire Prevention and
Control Act of 1974 (P.L. 93-498),4 the National Fire Prevention and Control
Administration (NFPCA) was established. In 1978, Congress changed the name of
NFPCA to USFA (P.L. 95-422), and in 1979, President Carter’s Reorganization Plan No.
3 placed the USFA within the newly created FEMA. Also in 1979, the National Fire
Academy (NFA) in Emmitsburg, Maryland was opened, offering courses and training to
fire service personnel and other persons engaged in fire prevention and control.
During the early 1980s, the Reagan Administration proposed the elimination of the
USFA (while preserving the Fire Academy). Although Congress did not allow the
termination of the USFA, the agency suffered severe staff reductions and the Fire
Academy was separated from the USFA and housed organizationally with other FEMA
emergency training programs. In 1991, the NFA was subsequently reorganized back into
the USFA, where it remains today.
Currently, the USFA is located on the grounds of the National Emergency Training
Center in Emmitsburg, Maryland. USFA programs include the following:
Data Collection — USFA’s National Fire Data Center (NFDC) administers a
national system for collecting, analyzing and disseminating data and information on fire
and other emergency incidents to State and local governments and the fire community.
The NFDC provides a national analysis of the fire problem, identifying problem areas for
which prevention and mitigation strategies are needed.
Public Education and Awareness — Through partnerships and special initiatives,
USFA involves the fire service, the media, other federal agencies and safety interest
groups in the development and delivery of fire safety awareness and education programs.
Karter, Michael J., National Fire Protection Association, Fire Loss in the United States During
2003, October 2004, available at [http://www.nfpa.org/assets/files/PDF/OS.fireloss.pdf]
U.S. Fire Administration, A Provisional Report: On-Duty Firefighter Fatalities in the United
States, Date Range 1/1/2004 to 12/31/2004. Available at [http://www.usfa. fema.gov/downloads/
The Commission was created by P.L. 90-259, the Fire Research and Safety Act of 1968.
15 U.S.C. 2201 et seq.
These programs are targeted at those groups most vulnerable to the hazards of fire,
including the young, elderly, and disabled.
Training — USFA’s National Fire Academy (NFA) offers educational opportunities
for the advanced professional development of the mid-level and senior fire/EMS officer
and allied professionals involved in fire prevention and life safety activities. The
Academy develops and delivers educational and training programs with a national focus
that supplement and support State and local fire service training.
Technology — Through research, testing and evaluation, USFA works with public
and private entities to promote and improve fire and life safety. Research and special
studies are conducted on fire detection, suppression and notification systems as well as
issues related to firefighter and emergency responder health and safety. Research results
are published and made available to the public free of charge through the USFA
In previous years, the USFA, through FEMA, received its yearly appropriation
through the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on VA, HUD, and
Independent Agencies. Beginning in FY2004, the USFA received its appropriation
through the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on the Department of
Homeland Security. The USFA is authorized in the House by the Committee on Science,
Subcommittee on Basic Research. The USFA is authorized in the Senate by the
Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs.
Appropriations. Beginning in FY2004, the USFA was funded through the
Preparedness, Mitigation, Response, and Recovery (PMRR) account within the
Emergency Preparedness and Response Directorate of the Department of Homeland
Security. The Administration’s FY2005 budget proposal requested $208 million for
PMRR. However, the FY2005 DHS budget documents did not include specific budget
levels for the USFA or the National Fire Academy. The House Appropriations Homeland
Security bill (H.R. 4567; H.Rept. 108-541), passed by the House on June 18, 2004, would
have provided $210.5 million for PMRR in FY2005. On June 17, 2004, the Senate
Appropriations Committee reported S. 2537 (S.Rept. 108-280), its version of the FY2005
Homeland Security Appropriations bill. The Senate FY2005 Homeland Security
Appropriations bill, passed on September 14, 2004, would have provided $231.5 million
for PMRR in FY2005. The final Conference Agreement on H.R. 4567 (H.Rept. 108-774)
provided PMRR with $239.5 million for FY2005. The bill was signed into law (P.L.
108-334) on October 18, 2004. No specific budget levels are detailed for the USFA or
the National Fire Academy in the appropriations language.
Table 1 shows a funding history of the USFA and the National Fire Academy from
FY2002 through FY2006. This information was presented by R. David Paulison, USFA
Administrator, at the February 24, 2005 summit meeting of fire service leaders.
The President’s FY2006 budget proposal would provide $235.5 million for PMRR.
No specific budget levels are detailed for the USFA or the National Fire Academy in the
FY2006 budget proposal. However, according to the USFA Administrator, the proposed
FY2006 budget for USFA is $52.6 million. On May 17, 2005 the House passed H.R.
2360, the FY2006 Homeland Security Appropriations bill. H.R. 2360 provides $249.5
million for PMRR.
Table 1. Funding History of the U.S. Fire Administration,
S&E & program
*FY2002 budget number above does not include $5 million for a one-time fire safety awareness
campaign, nor $4.9 million for an anti-terrorism training grant program in the NFA, which was
subsequently transferred to the First Responder grant program. The FY2002 budget total is
$67.267 million if those two programs are included.
Source: U.S. Fire Administration
See [http://www.iafc.org/downloads/USFA_summit022405.ppt] for detailed budget table.
Authorizations. The U.S. Fire Administration Reauthorization Act of 2003 (P.L.
108-169) was signed into law on December 6, 2003. The act reauthorizes the USFA
through FY2008 at the following levels: $63 million for FY2005, $64.85 million for
FY2006, $66.796 million for FY2007, and $68.8 million for FY2008. P.L. 108-169 also
reestablishes the Presidentially-appointed position of the U.S. Fire Administrator, which
had been statutorily abolished by the Homeland Security Act of 2002. Additionally, the
legislation (incorporating S. 321/H.R. 545, Firefighting Research and Coordination Act)
directs the USFA to develop new firefighting technologies and standards in coordination
with private sector standards groups and federal, state, and local agencies. P.L. 108-169
requires that equipment purchased with fire grant money meet or exceed voluntary
consensus standards when feasible.
Assistance to Firefighters Program (FIRE Act Grants)5
During the 106th Congress, many in the fire community asserted that local fire
departments require and deserve greater support from the federal government.
Accordingly, H.R. 1168, the Firefighter Investment and Response Enhancement (FIRE)
Act, was introduced on March 17, 1999 by Representative Pascrell. Ultimately, FIRE Act
authorization language was incorporated into Title XVII of the FY2001 National Defense
Authorization Act (P.L. 106-398, H.R. 4205/H.R. 5408), which was signed into law on
For more information, see CRS Report RS21302, Assistance to Firefighters Program, by
Lennard G. Kruger.
October 30, 2000. P.L. 106-398 established a new office in FEMA to administer grants
to fire departments and fire prevention organizations for a variety of purposes, including
hiring and training personnel, prevention programs, equipment and facilities, and public
At its inception, the fire grant program was administered by the USFA and focused
on enhancing the basic needs of fire departments across the nation. In the FY2004 budget
request, as part of its effort to consolidate terrorism preparedness grants under a single
entity, the Administration proposed to relocate the fire grant program within the Office
for Domestic Preparedness (ODP), whose mission is to provide state and local
governments with assistance to improve their readiness for terrorism incidents. The
FY2004 DHS Appropriations Act (P.L. 108-90) acceded to the Administration’s request,
and relocated the fire grants to ODP. The Conferees directed that DHS shall “continue
current administrative practices in a manner identical to the current fiscal year, including
a peer review process of applications, granting funds directly to local fire departments,
and the inclusion of the United States Fire Administration during grant administration.”
On January 26, 2004, DHS Secretary Ridge informed Congress of his intention to
consolidate ODP, including the Assistance to Firefighters Program, into the Office of
State and Local Government Coordination Preparedness (OSLGCP). The FY2005
Homeland Security appropriations act (P.L. 108-334) places the fire grant program within
OSLGCP. However, the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program Reauthorization Act
of 2004 (P.L. 108-375) designates administration of the fire grant program to USFA. The
FY2005 fire grant program is being administered by OSLGCP.
A major issue in the 109th Congress is the viability and status of the USFA and
National Fire Academy within the Department of Homeland Security. While initially
supportive of the reorganization of FEMA into DHS, many in the fire service community
have cautioned that USFA and NFA programs — which address the day-to-day challenges
faced by fire departments — should not be overshadowed in an organization which
focuses on homeland security and counterterrorism. Since the establishment of DHS in
March 2003, fire service groups have opposed a number of actions DHS has taken with
respect to the USFA and NFA. These include the abolishment of the presidentiallyappointed position of U.S. Fire Administrator (subsequently reestablished by enactment
of the USFA Reauthorization Act); proposed cancellations of some NFA courses in 2003
due to an across-the-board FEMA budget cut (those NFA courses were subsequently
restored after fire service protests); and the transfer of the fire grants program from USFA
to the Office for Domestic Preparedness.
Currently, fire service groups are expressing concerns that USFA and NFA programs
are being progressively diminished by DHS, pointing to reductions in the USFA and NFA
budget since FEMA was incorporated into DHS (see Table 1, above). On February 24,
2005, the International Association of Fire Chiefs convened a summit meeting of 18
major fire service organizations to address concerns about the USFA and NFA budget and
to discuss the position and status of the fire service within DHS. At the summit meeting,
USFA Administrator Paulison presented a detailed look at the USFA budget.
Administrator Paulison maintained that while some USFA programs have been cut over
the past four years, the cuts have not been dramatic, the budget remains manageable, and
that some programs are getting funds under new programs at DHS.6
At the summit, the fire service identified five policy goals: (1) America’s fire
services must be represented by fire chiefs and other senior fire service officials within
the office of the Secretary of Homeland Security and in key positions throughout the
department; (2) the U.S. Fire Administration must occupy a key position and function in
a comprehensive role within the Department of Homeland Security proportionate to the
responsibilities of the fire services in responding to incidents of terrorism and all hazards
events; (3) the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Homeland
Security need to recognize and designate the U.S. Fire Administration and the National
Fire Academy as being “homeland security critical”in the federal budgeting process; (4)
the U.S. Fire Administration and the National Fire Academy must be fully funded to the
authorized levels to support the ongoing mission to reflect contemporary issues and
community risks; and that (5) to ensure the most effective utilization of training resources,
the Department of Homeland Security should be required to work more closely with the
National Fire Academy and state and local fire training academies regarding the use of
curriculum and the delivery system for terrorism response training. The fire service is
currently developing a strategy to implement these goals.
Another issue is the role of the federal government in assisting fire departments to
hire personnel. Firefighters have argued that inadequate state and local budgets leave
many fire departments critically understaffed, and that federal assistance is needed. On
the other hand, the Administration has argued that funding the hiring of firefighters is not
an appropriate federal role. In the first session of the 108th Congress, Congress enacted
the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Firefighters (SAFER) Act as
Section 1057 of the FY2004 National Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 108-136; signed
into law November 24, 2003). The SAFER Act authorizes federal grants of over $1
billion per year through 2010 directly to fire departments for the hiring of personnel. The
SAFER Act gives the U.S. Fire Administrator authority to issue four-year grants for new
hires, with the condition that the recipient fire department must assume an increasing
percentage of the cost in each year. No money was appropriated for SAFER grants in
FY2004, and the Administration requested no funding for SAFER grants in FY2005. The
FY2005 Homeland Security Appropriations Act (P.L. 108-334; H.Rept. 108-774)
provides SAFER Act grants with $65 million for FY2005.
The FY2005 SAFER program will provide funding to support hiring of firefighters
and recruitment and retention of volunteers. The application period is scheduled for May
31 through June 28, 2005.7 The Administration is requesting no funding of the SAFER
grants for FY2006. On May 17, 2005 the House passed H.R. 2360, the FY2006
Homeland Security Appropriations bill. The House appropriation is $75 million for
SAFER Act grants.
“Paulison Offers Status Report at IAFC Summit Meeting,” Fire Chief, March 1, 2005, available
For SAFER program guidance