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Norton's Language to Keep Terrorist and Disaster Protection Coordination Office in D.C. Area Included in FEMA Bill

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) yesterday got language included in the FEMA Reauthorization Act of 2013 committee report to keep the Office of National Capital Region Coordination (ONCRC) in the National Capital Region, which includes the District of Columbia and several surrounding counties in Maryland and Virginia. The report language Norton got included expresses the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's concern over a recent Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) plan to relocate the ONCRC to Philadelphia, PA, hundreds of miles away, and it states that the move "on its face, appears to weaken this office, which has been under scrutiny for years for failing to meet its mission of assisting emergency management officials in the National Capital Region." The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved the bill yesterday.

"The FEMA proposal to move the Office of National Capital Region Coordination hundreds of miles away from the D.C. metropolitan area it is required to protect would undercut the reasons this region alone has an office dedicated solely to the region, which took a direct hit on 9/11," said Norton. "After I wrote the Senate Appropriations Committee, it responded with language in the committee report accompanying its Fiscal Year 2014 Homeland Security Appropriations bill to prohibit the proposed move. Now, the House committee that authorized the special office has spoken definitively."

In July, the Senate Appropriations Committee included language Norton requested in a letter earlier in the month objecting to the FEMA proposal to move ONCRC functions from D.C. to Pennsylvania, until FEMA provides the appropriate justification to Congress. Norton's letter said that not only did FEMA fail to consult with members of Congress, but that its plan would significantly weaken the office. A week later, Norton testified at a Senate Subcommittee on Emergency Management, Intergovernmental Relations, and the District of Columbia hearing to examine disaster preparedness of the National Capital Region. She addressed concerns about regional coordination efforts, following unprecedented disasters such as the D.C. earthquake of 2011.

The full text of Norton's report language follows.

October 29, 2013

The Committee finds that unlike other parts of the country, a disaster in the National Capital Region affects not a city or a region, but the nation itself because the National Capital Region is the seat of the federal government, including the Capitol, the Supreme Court, the White House, the headquarters of its agencies, and many secure facilities and iconic monuments. Even after the unprecedented terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, which targeted the National Capital Region, the region has faced several unprecedented emergencies, including the so-called "snowmageddon" in 2010 that shut down the region for days, the earthquake of 2011, Hurricane Sandy, this September's Navy Yard shooting, the recent shooting at the Capitol, and others that have affected the federal government, Maryland, D.C. and Virginia, their residents and visitors. Major natural disasters and terrorist attacks occurring anywhere in the National Capital Region require a coordinated response.

The Committee recognizes that for this reason, Congress, in the wake of 9/11, created the Office of National Capital Region Coordination (ONCRC), now located under the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to help develop and coordinate strategic plans to improve the National Capital Region's ability to prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from natural disasters and terrorist attacks. The term "National Capital Region" is defined in section 2674(f)(2) of title 10 of the United States Code as the geographic area located within the boundaries of the District of Columbia; Montgomery and Prince George's Counties in the State of Maryland; Arlington, Fairfax, Loudon, and Prince William Counties and the City of Alexandria in the Commonwealth of Virginia; and all cities and local units of government in these geographic areas.

The Committee is concerned by a recent ONCRC announcement that it plans to relocate ONCRC staff to the Region 3 office in Philadelphia, PA, hundreds of miles away, and to reduce the ONCRC staff and budget, and to do so administratively without consulting with Congress. In fact, this move, on its face, appears to weaken this office, which has been under scrutiny for years for failing to meet its mission of assisting emergency management officials in the National Capital Region. For example, a recent GAO report found that the ONCRC failed to assist regional officials in developing performance measures or in identifying funding for preparedness investments.

Therefore, the Committee requests FEMA to review any plans to relocate the ONCRC to a location outside of the National Capital Region and ensure the Committee is fully informed before any such office is relocated.

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