Order Code RS20071 Updated June 2, 2008 United States Fire Administration: An Overview Lennard G. Kruger Specialist in Science and Technology Resources, Science, and Industry Division Summary The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) — which includes the National Fire Academy (NFA) — is currently an entity within the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The objective of the USFA 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. The President’s FY2008 budget proposed $43.3 million, and the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-161) also provided $43.3 million. The Administration’s FY2009 budget proposal requested $40.9 million for USFA, a reduction of 5.5% from the FY2008 level. On April 3, 2008, the House passed H.R. 4847, the USFA reauthorization bill. The Senate’s USFA reauthorization bill, S. 2606, was approved by the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on April 10, 2008. Other USFA-related legislation includes H.R. 1351, H.R. 4846, and H.R. 6112. This report will be updated as events warrant. Background The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) is currently an entity within the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) 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 United States remains serious. The United States still has one of the highest fire death rates in the industrialized world. According to the National Fire Protection Association, in 2006 there were 3,245 civilian fire deaths, 16,400 CRS-2 civilian fire injuries, and an estimated $11.307 billion in direct property loss.1 According to the U.S. Fire Administration, there were 115 firefighter on-duty deaths in 2007.2 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. 1 Karter, Michael J., National Fire Protection Association, Fire Loss in the United States During 2006, September 2007, available at [http://www.nfpa.org/assets/files/PDF/OS.fireloss.pdf]. 2 U.S. Fire Administration, On-Duty Firefighter Fatalities in the United States, available at [http://www.usfa.dhs.gov/downloads/pdf/07-fatality-summary.pdf]. 3 The Commission was created by P.L. 90-259, the Fire Research and Safety Act of 1968. 4 15 U.S.C. 2201 et seq. CRS-3 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). Research and 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 Publications Center. Budget 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. 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 received a separate appropriation (its own line item) under the new DHS Directorate for Preparedness. The FY2007 Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill (P.L. 109-295) transferred the USFA back to the Federal Emergency Management Agency within DHS. FY2008. The Administration’s FY2008 budget request for USFA was $43.3 million.5 As in past years, the budget documents do not provide a breakdown of funding for the National Fire Academy. Proposed increases for the USFA included $300,000 for expansion of a distance learning program and $1 million to develop curriculum for the Preparedness Leadership Institute. On June 5, 2007, the House Appropriations Committee approved the same amount ($43.3 million) requested by the Administration. On June 15, 2007, the House passed the FY2008 Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill (H.R. 2638; H.Rept. 110-181), providing the same amount ($43.3 million) requested by the Administration. On June 14, 2007, the Senate Appropriations 5 This constitutes a decrease of $3.549 million from the FY2007 level for the “United States Fire Administration and Training” line item, and reflects the transfer of $5.5 million for the Noble Training Center to the Center for Domestic Preparedness. In FY2006 and FY2007, the Noble Training Center — a hospital facility in Alabama which trains health care workers in disaster preparedness and response — was part of the USFA and Training account. P.L. 109-295 transferred the Noble Training Center to the State and Local Programs (SLP) Appropriation, Center for Domestic Preparedness. CRS-4 Committee also approved $43.3 million for USFA (S.Rept. 110-84). On July 26, 2007, the Senate passed H.R. 2638. On December 26, 2007, the President signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-161), which provides $43.3 million for the USFA. Additionally, as stated in the Joint Explanatory Statement accompanying P.L. 110-161, the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations provide $1 million for development of a web-based version of the National Fire Incident Reporting System. This initiative is to be led by the USFA. FY2009. The Administration’s FY2009 budget proposal requested $40.9 million for USFA, a reduction of 5.5% from the FY2008 level. According to the budget proposal, the reduction is based on several factors including “the substantial level of funding over the past five years and a reprioritization of FEMA resources.” The budget proposal further stated that “the reduction in funding will result in a minimal impact” on USFA program performance. Additionally, the Administration FY2009 budget transferred the USFA budget from a stand-alone FEMA line item to the Operations, Management, and Administration (OMA) account within FEMA. Table 1. Appropriations, U.S. Fire Administration ($ millions) FY2006 (P.L. 10990) U.S. Fire Administration 40.037 FY2007 (P.L. 109295) 41.349 FY2008 (P.L. 110161) 43.300 FY2009 (Admin. request) 40.913 Authorizations. The U.S. Fire Administration Reauthorization Act of 2003 (P.L. 108-169) was signed into law on December 6, 2003. The act reauthorized 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 reestablished 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) directed 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 required that equipment purchased with fire grant money meet or exceed voluntary consensus standards when feasible. On October 2, 2007, the Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation of the House Committee on Science and Technology held a hearing on the reauthorization of the USFA. H.R. 4847, the United States Fire Administration Reauthorization Act of 2007, was introduced on December 19, 2007, by Representative Mitchell. H.R. 4847 would authorize the USFA at $70 million for FY2009, $72.1 million for FY2010, $74.3 million for FY2011, and $76.5 million for FY2012. Specific activities are authorized, including National Fire Academy training program modifications and reports, upgrading and updating the National Fire Incident Reporting System to an Internet-based real-time incident reporting database, developing training and technology to address fires occurring at the wildland-urban interface, improving fire research dissemination to the public, encouraging adoption of standards for firefighter health and safety, and enhancing coordination regarding fire service-based Emergency Medical Services. On February 7, CRS-5 2008, the House Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation approved H.R. 4847 and forwarded the bill to the full committee. On February 27, 2008, the House Committee on Science and Technology ordered H.R. 4847 to be reported with amendments (H.Rept. 110-559). Adopted Committee amendments would: authorize USFA to enter into contracts with one or more nationally recognized third-party organizations to deliver training; authorize USFA to conduct or contract studies on fire-service based EMS; and require USFA to develop, within two years, a National Fire Academy course on incident training command for firefighting at U.S. ports and in marine areas. On April 3, 2008, the House adopted an amendment in the nature of a substitute and passed the bill 412-0. Added was a provision expressing congressional support for USFA recommendations for adoption and education regarding sprinklers in commercial and residential buildings. On February 7, 2008, Senator Dodd introduced S. 2606, the United States Fire Administration Reauthorization Act of 2008. On April 10, 2008, S. 2606 was approved, with amendments, by the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Although largely similar to the House bill (H.R. 4847), S. 2606 would also establish a state and local fire service position at the National Operations Center within DHS. Assistance to Firefighters Program (FIRE Act Grants)6 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 education. 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 its inception, the fire grant program has been administered by FEMA/USFA (FY2001-FY2003), the Office for Domestic Preparedness (FY2004), the Office of State and Local Government Coordination Preparedness (FY2005), and the Office of Grants and Training in the DHS Directorate for Preparedness (FY2006). Congressional appropriations reports have consistently instructed DHS to maintain USFA involvement in the grant administration process for fire and SAFER grants.7 The FY2007 DHS appropriations bill (P.L. 109-295) transferred fire and SAFER grants (along with the USFA) back to FEMA. 6 For more information, see CRS Report RS21302, Assistance to Firefighters Program, by Lennard G. Kruger. 7 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. CRS-6 Issues The Administration’s FY2009 budget proposal to reduce the USFA budget and to transfer the USFA into FEMA’s Operations, Management, and Administration account are likely to generate controversy. Debate over the USFA budget focuses on whether the USFA is receiving sufficient funding to accomplish its mission and to enable the USFA to assume an enhanced role within DHS. Those debates will likely continue during congressional consideration of the USFA appropriation and reauthorization. Other legislation introduced into the 110th Congress would expand USFA’s role. H.R. 1351, the Firefighters Special Operation Task Force Act, would authorize USFA to award grants to firefighter task forces for equipment, training, and personnel. H.R. 4846, the First Line of Defense Infrastructure Improvement Act, would establish a new grant program within USFA that would primarily fund repairs and renovations to fire stations located near critical infrastructure. H.R. 6112, the Healthy Firefighters Act, would authorize USFA to contract with medical research universities to conduct long-term health monitoring of firefighters who have responded to emergencies in disaster areas and to consult with the Secretary of Health and Human Services to provide for the treatment of those firefighters. Meanwhile, an ongoing issue 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 presidentially appointed position of U.S. Fire Administrator (subsequently reestablished by enactment of the USFA Reauthorization Act of 2003); 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. However, in the 109th Congress, Title VI of the Conference Agreement on the DHS appropriations bill (P.L. 109-295; H.Rept. 109-699), the Post Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006, transferred most of the existing Preparedness Directorate (including the USFA) back to an enhanced FEMA. Additionally, P.L. 109-295 directed that the Administrator of the USFA remain an assistant secretary-level position.