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FEMA director in March: We are prepared, as never before, to deal quickly and competently with disasters

RAW STORY

The following statement, delivered by Under Secretary Michael D. Brown Mar. 9, 2005 to the Senate Appropriations Committee on Homeland Security, was acquired by RAW STORY Wednesday from a source on Capitol Hill. It follows.

In the testimony, Brown says, "Our Nation is prepared, as never before, to deal quickly and capably with the consequences of disasters and other domestic incidents," which he couched with the caveat, "recovery from - a catastrophic incident is still a challenge to the emergency management community."

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Good Morning, Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee. I am Michael Brown, Under Secretary of Homeland Security for the Emergency Preparedness and Response, and head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

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I am honored to appear before you today to discuss FEMA's accomplishments and challenges over the past year. More importantly, I want to highlight some of our priorities in the President's fiscal year 2006 budget request.

During its 26-year history, FEMA has helped to lead America through some of its most difficult times, including the Midwest Floods of 1993 and 1997, the Northridge Earthquake, the September 11th terrorist attacks, the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster, and the 2004 hurricanes.

As part of Homeland Security, FEMA continues its tradition of responding to help disaster victims and those in need whenever disasters strike.

In fiscal year 2004, FEMA obligated more than $4.9 billion in disaster funds to aid people and communities overwhelmed by disasters: including floods, ice and winter storms, wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes, typhoons, and tropical storms.

Overall, FEMA responded to 65 major disasters and seven emergencies in 46 states and/or U.S. territories.

Last year, FEMA's disaster response and recovery capabilities were put to the test by the unprecedented string of hurricanes that struck the Southeast. It was the most active hurricane season the nation has seen in more than 100 years. Florida, which was particularly hard-hit, became the first state since Texas in 1886 to be struck by four hurricanes in a single year.

Looking to 2006 - I would like to highlight a few issues in the President's fiscal year 2006 budget request.

Our Nation is prepared, as never before, to deal quickly and capably with the consequences of disasters and other domestic incidents. However, despite continuing improvements to the national domestic incident architecture, planning for a comprehensive and effective response to - and recovery from - a catastrophic incident is still a challenge to the emergency management community.

Thus, for fiscal year 2006, President Bush's budget proposes $20 million for enhanced catastrophic disaster planning. This funding will support catastrophic incident response and recovery planning and exercises. This planning effort requires a robust, focused, and sustained national effort to improve our response to a catastrophic event.

In Homeland Security Presidential Directive -5, Management of Domestic Incidents, President Bush directed the Secretary of Homeland Security to develop and administer the National Incident Management System (NIMS).

In May of 2004, the NIMS Integration Center (NIC) was established within EP&R. With strategic direction and oversight from the NIC, implementation of the NIMS will provide the nationís first-responders and public officials with the same foundation for incident management for terrorist attacks, natural disasters, and other emergencies.

The President's 2006 budget for FEMA includes $25 million in budget authority for the NIC.

In 2006, FEMA's Federal Incident Response Teams - FIRSTs - will become fully operational, and will be one of the initially deployed Federal response assets to provide the preliminary on-scene Federal management component in response to a major disaster or emergency.

The President's 2006 budget requests $2.1 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund, which provides funding to declared disasters and emergencies. As you know, funding for the Disaster Relief Fund is vital to continuing our mission in 2006 to effectively manage federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident.

President Bush's budget for 2006 also continues the President's Pre-Disaster Mitigation program, restoring the PDM Fund to $250 million a year - to pre-fiscal year 2005 levels. This program is integral in helping address threats to life and property before disasters strike.

Lastly, funding for FEMA's Office of National Security Coordination (ONSC) in fiscal year 2006 will help to continue assisting departments and agencies with COOP and COG planning, training, exercising, and assessments; and ensure that the federal government, state and local partners have a reliable means for timely and effective alert and warning messaging.

Since the last time I appeared before this Subcommittee, FEMA has been extraordinarily busy.

Fiscal year 2005 and fiscal year 2006 funding will allow us to continue to build on our experiences and to improve our ability to accomplish our mission.

FEMA's dedicated and skilled team of professionals, along with its partners in government and the public and private sectors, must stand ready to provide rapid assistance and resources in emergency situations.

With the continuing support of the Congress and the successful implementation of the new initiatives and the on-going activities I have discussed today, we will improve our national system of preparing for, mitigating against, responding to, and recovering from disasters and emergencies caused by all hazards.

In closing, I want to thank the members of the Subcommittee for their past support of FEMA and I appreciate the opportunity to testify before you today. I would now be pleased to answer any questions you may have.

Originally published on Wednesday September 7, 2005.

 


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