The Senate Homeland Security Committee today passed a major reauthorization bill to strengthen homeland security operations. The bill includes several provisions by Senator Mark Pryor to improve disaster response efforts and prevent government waste.
"We have come a long way since September 11th, but we can leverage our resources to more effectively fight terrorism and respond to natural disasters," Pryor said. "This legislation enhances coordination efforts while developing better strategies to improve the financial management and performance at the Department of Homeland Security."
As Chairman of the Subcommittee on Disaster Recovery and Intergovernmental Affairs, Pryor has worked to improve coordination and efficiency at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). His provisions in the legislation would:
* Enable States to Help Neighboring States Respond to Disasters: This provision incorporates the Emergency Management Assistance Compact Reauthorization Act to continue a popular program that allows states to quickly receive or provide trained first responders and other assistance to neighboring states when tornadoes, flooding, or other disasters strike. In addition, it authorizes up to $2 million a year over 5 years to provide training for first responders; conduct cross-state exercises, and establish a tracking system of deployed assets.
* Allow Federal Assistance to be Available for Pandemics and Terrorism. This provision, which mirrors the Emergency Response Act of 2009, closes a disaster-response loophole by adding public health emergencies to the definition of a "major disaster" under the Stafford Act. This would make a flu outbreak or other health emergency eligible for federal agency support, coordination activities, technical and advisory assistance, and medical supply distribution efforts.
* Improve Financial Management within DHS' Acquisitions Process to Prevent Waste: This provision requires quarterly reporting on whether qualified program managers are overseeing the procurement of equipment and services at DHS. Earlier this year, the Inspector General at DHS identified $40 million that was wasted on a technology contract for FEMA's flood insurance program. The report, citing that the multi-million system was unable to meet FEMA's security and technical requirements, indicates inexperienced management was responsible for the blunder.
* Improve Coordination on Mitigation Planning: This provision codifies the National Mitigation Framework to step-up FEMA's efforts to prevent hazardous weather from turning into a disaster. It increases coordination among federal, state, and local responders as they develop long-term strategies for how they apply for and use limited federal mitigation dollars. Mitigation programs have been shown to have a return on investment of up to $4 for every $1 spent.