Order Code RS20071
August 3, 2006
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 currently an entity within the Directorate for Preparedness 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 has been the viability and
status of the USFA and NFA within the Department of Homeland Security. The
FY2006 appropriation for the USFA is $40.037 million. The President’s FY2007
budget requests $40.887 million in FY2007. On June 6, 2006, the House passed the
FY2007 DHS appropriations bill (H.R. 5441) approving $40.887 million for USFA, the
same as the President’s request. On July 13, 2006, the Senate passed H.R. 5441, also
approving $40.887 million for USFA. This report will be updated as events warrant.
The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) — formerly a part of the Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA) — is currently an entity within the Directorate for
Preparedness of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). 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, and to prepare first
responders and health care leaders to react to all hazard and terrorism emergencies of all
kinds. One of USFA’s key objectives 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 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, in 2005 there were 3,675 civilian fire deaths, 17,925 civilian
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
fire injuries, and an estimated $10.672 billion in direct property loss.1 According to the
U.S. Fire Administration, there were 115 firefighter on-duty deaths in 2005.2
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.
These programs are targeted at those groups most vulnerable to the hazards of fire,
including the young, elderly, and disabled.
Karter, Michael J., National Fire Protection Association, Fire Loss in the United States During
2005, July 2006, available at [http://www.nfpa.org/assets/files/PDF/OS.fireloss.pdf].
U.S. Fire Administration, Firefighter Fatalities in the United States in 2005, FA-306, July 2006,
Available at [http://www.usfa.dhs.gov/downloads/pdf/ publications/fa-306-508.pdf].
The Commission was created by P.L. 90-259, the Fire Research and Safety Act of 1968.
15 U.S.C. 2201 et seq.
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. The NFA also offers
training to support the National Incident Management System Integration Center (NIC)
and nationwide implementation of the National Incident Management System (NIMS).
Also affiliated with USFA is the Noble Training Center — located at Fort McClellan,
Alabama — which trains emergency managers and health care professionals to manage
a mass casualty event resulting from natural disasters, technological incidents, and acts
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 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. On July 13, 2005, DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff announced a restructuring
of DHS, effective October 1, 2005. USFA was removed from the PMRR account and
now receives a separate appropriation (its own line item) under the new DHS Directorate
for Preparedness. The USFA appropriation appears as “United States Fire Administration
and Training” within Title III of the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations
bill. The appropriation includes funding for the Noble Training Center, a hospital facility
in Fort McClellan, AL used to train hospital and health care professionals in disaster
preparedness and response.
FY2006. The Administration’s July 22, 2005 FY2006 budget amendments for
DHS restructuring requested $44.948 million for USFA and Training in FY2006, which
included $4.5 million for the Noble Training Center. The Conference Report for the
FY2006 Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill (H.R. 2360; H.Rept. 109241) set USFA and Training at $44.948 million and moved the program into the new
Preparedness Directorate. The Department of Homeland Security Act (P.L. 109-90) was
signed into law on October 18, 2005. The government-wide 1% rescission mandated by
the FY2006 Department of Defense appropriations bill (P.L. 109-115) lowered the
FY2006 appropriation to $44.499 million. See Table 1 for a recent history of USFA
The Senate Appropriations Committee bill report to H.R. 2360 (S.Rept. 109-83)
directed DHS to commission a study of the preparedness of local fire departments to meet
traditional and post 9/11 requirements. The Appropriations Committee encouraged the
use of an “independent organization” to conduct the study, and noted that the last
comprehensive study, “A Needs Assessment of the U.S. Fire Service,” was conducted in
FY2007. The President’s budget proposal requests $46.849 million for USFA and
Training in FY2007. This reflects an increase of 5% over the FY2006 level. Of the total
requested increase of $2.35 million, $1.5 million is designated for the Noble Training
Center for the funding of new training curriculum and an additional FTE to prepare
medical emergency personnel to manage the effects of natural disasters, terrorist attacks,
and other catastrophic events. The remaining amount of the increase ($0.85 million) will
cover USFA mandatory cost increases associated with payroll and inflationary costs. On
May 17, 2006, the House Appropriations Committee approved $46.849 million for USFA
and Training (H.R. 5441; H.Rept. 109-476), the same as the President’s request. Of the
total USFA and Training appropriation, the Committee specified $5.962 million for the
Noble Training Center. H.R. 5441 was passed by the House on June 6, 2006. On June
29, 2006, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved $45.887 million for USFA and
Training (S.Rept. 109-273), including $5 million for the Noble Training Center. H.R.
5441 was passed by the Senate on July 13, 2006.
Table 1. Appropriations, U.S. Fire Administration and Training
Noble Training Center
Total, USFA and
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
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. Since FY2004, the
fire grant program has been administered by the Office for Domestic Preparedness (ODP)
and (in FY2005) by the Office of State and Local Government Coordination Preparedness
(OSLGCP). Congressional appropriations reports have instructed DHS to maintain USFA
involvement in the grant administration process. The FY2006 DHS restructuring plan
placed the fire grants (as well as the SAFER grants6) within the Office of Grants and
Training in the DHS Directorate for Preparedness.
A major issue in the 109th Congress has been 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 the
USFA to the Office for Domestic Preparedness. On July 13, 2005, DHS Secretary
Michael Chertoff announced a restructuring of DHS, effective October 1, 2005. Under
this restructuring, USFA was removed from FEMA and located under the new DHS
Directorate for Preparedness.
During the First Session of the 109th Congress, fire service groups expressed
concerns that USFA and NFA programs were being progressively diminished by DHS,
For more information, see CRS Report RS21302, Assistance to Firefighters Program, by
Lennard G. Kruger.
For more details on the SAFER grant program, see CRS Report RL33375, Staffing for Adequate
Fire and Emergency Response: The SAFER Grant Program, by Lennard G. Kruger.
pointing to reductions in the USFA and NFA budget since FEMA was incorporated into
DHS. 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, then-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.7
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.
Legislation in the second session of the 109th Congress would provide for a further
organizational restructuring of the USFA. H.R. 5316, the RESPOND Act of 2006, would
transfer USFA to a reconstituted, cabinet-level independent FEMA. H.R. 5316 was
reported by the House Committee on Government Reform on June 22, 2006 (H.Rept.
109-519, Part I) and ordered to be reported by the House Committee on Transportation
and Infrastructure on May 17, 2006. H.R. 5351, the National Emergency Management
Reform and Enhancement Act of 2006, ordered to be reported by the House Select
Committee on Homeland Security on May 17, 2006, would transfer the USFA into a
newly created Directorate of Emergency Management within DHS. In the Senate, the
United States Emergency Management Authority Act of 2006 (Title VIII of Senate-passed
H.R. 5441, the DHS appropriations bill) and the Post Katrina Emergency Management
Reform Act of 2006 (S. 3721, reported by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security
and Government Affairs on July 27, 2006) would locate the USFA within a United States
Emergency Management Authority within DHS.
“Paulison Offers Status Report at IAFC Summit Meeting,” Fire Chief, March 1, 2005, available