State homeland security managers face an unprecedented challenge in 2011: doing as much or more as they have in past years, only with less money. We’ll find out soon enough how they are coping.
In the remaining four months of fiscal-year 2011, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will distribute $2.1 billion worth of preparedness grants to cities and states around the U.S., nearly a quarter less than last year’s allocation. The difficulty for grant recipients – especially those cut entirely from one or more of the programs – will be to maintain an acceptable level of core capability, but at lower funding levels that are also unlikely to rise any time soon given the current tight fiscal environment. Clearly, some hard choices lie ahead.
The majority of the grants are distributed under FEMA’s $1.4-billion Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP), which comprises five interconnected subprograms, the two largest of which are the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) and State Homeland Security Program (SHSP).
In our May 24 post we noted that FEMA allocations for the FY2011 UASI program will total $662.6 million, 20% less than the prior year, while the number of cities receiving grants has been cut from 64 to 31, all of them in the lower funding category known as Tier II. Meanwhile, SHSP allocations to the 50 states, four U.S. territories, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, which we analyzed on May 20, will total $526.9 million, 37% less than was allocated in FY2010.
In this sixth and final installment in the series we step back and take a look at the aggregate financial impact of changes to these two major HSGP programs on states and cities, which presents a somewhat different picture of the funding winners and losers than we saw when analyzing each individual grant program. We then make some observations about how these changes might affect various states – in particular ongoing operations at their strategically important fusion centers.
Aggregate Impact on the States
Our UASI-focused analysis looked at the states that lost the most number of cities this year compared to what they had in FY2010. By that measure we noted that the three biggest losers were: New York, which lost four of its five; Texas, three of five; and California, three of eight. However, if one looks at the dollar amounts cut or losses as a percentage of UASI funding, the picture doesn’t look so dire. New York lost only $10 million (6%); Texas, $15 million (18%); and California, $13 million (8%). The only entities to do better than that this year, as a percentage of FY2010 UASI funding, were Washington DC, Illinois, New Jersey and Massachusetts – four states that lost no UASI money because their cities were in Tier I rather than Tier II.
For gloomier scenarios, consider Connecticut (who’s Senator, Joe Lieberman, is Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, which did little to ease its fate), Louisiana, Oklahoma or Tennessee, each of which had two UASIs in FY2010, funded at an average of $7 million, but which are now entirely out of the UASI program. Or consider Missouri (which lost Kansas City and saw a 30% cut to St. Louis) or Ohio (which lost Columbus and Toledo and saw 30% cuts to Cleveland and Cincinnati). Although these two states each lost about $10 million like New York did, that represented a much bigger percentage chunk of their overall UASI funding: 63% in Missouri’s case and 57% in Ohio’s, compared to 6% for New York.
From a purely UASI perspective, perhaps the worst off is Florida. It lost more UASI money than any other state this year: $16.6 million. It also lost one UASI city outright (Jacksonville), was forced to consolidate two others into one (Miami and Fort Lauderdale) and suffered approximately 30% cuts to each of its remaining two UASIs (Tampa and Orlando). It will require significant effort simply to implement the structural changes these cuts will require, and the Sunshine State must now do so with roughly half the UASI funds it had last year.
The overall state picture is further clarified by looking at the major SHSP trends. As we noted on May 20, one of the informal rules governing the SHSP funding distribution process this year appears to have been to spare New York, California, Illinois and Washington DC the 50% cuts that hit 19 other states. New York was already the biggest SHSP winner in getting cut just under 20% from its FY2010 levels – the smallest decline of any state or territory – while Illinois fell 38%. California may have suffered the largest dollar loss overall but its percentage loss was a fairly mild 32%. Contrast those SHSP cuts with Florida and Texas, which both fell 50%, as did four of the other six states mentioned above as being already hard-hit hit by UASI cuts: Tennessee, Louisiana, Missouri and Ohio.
In the aggregate, when one examines both funding lines as if they were a single unit, the broad trends become clear. The states that have emerged relatively unscathed in terms of percentage cuts from UASI/SHSP are New York (12%), Illinois (14%), California (18%) and New Jersey (19%). In the middle with more substantial cuts are Pennsylvania (27%) and Texas (31%). And the one state that now clearly emerges as having suffered the biggest hit of all is Florida, with a whopping 48% decline in its aggregate funding from these two largest HSGP programs. (Click on the expandable bar chart below for a graphical depiction of how these seven states fared in the combined UASI/SHSP funding environment.)
Effects on Fusion Centers
Among the biggest beneficiaries of FEMA grant money are the fusion centers (FEMA grants also represent by far the largest percentage of the centers’ funding, with much smaller amounts coming from the Department of Justice, the Drug Enforcement Administration and elsewhere). With the recent addition of Milwaukee, there are now 73 fusion centers around the U.S. Each of the 50 states has one state-wide center (as do the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico), and some of the larger cities and regions also have their own, including Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, the Delaware Valley, Southeastern Florida and Northern Virginia.
In light of the funding trends described above, there are serious questions to be raised about how much money some states will have left this year to fund the 52 state-wide fusion centers. States get to keep 20% of both SHSP and UASI funds at the state level, and the bulk of remaining SHSP funding must flow down to local agencies. With SHSP down 37% and many states getting zeroed out of the UASI program, there are likely some difficult times ahead for any number of states. Among others we would highlight Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Louisiana, Indiana, Tennessee, California, Wisconsin and Missouri. States running fusion centers in Tier-II cities that have been dropped from the UASI program and/or have taken a big hit in their SHSP funding will struggle particularly hard to fund these centers. Also vulnerable are those areas where two nearby centers could be merged to save money.
The fusion centers have been very much a priority focus at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) over the past couple of years, and their missions and capabilities are clearly of local, regional and national importance. The question now is how can they maintain their functions on much smaller budgets. In fusion centers, DHS has been building a system that is critical to U.S. national security, and it will be vital to ensure first and foremost that the centers maintain their longer-term strategic focus on region-wide issues like terrorism preparedness despite pressures to become absorbed in more mundane day-to-day operational matters. Equally important will be maintaining a sufficient number of centers to ensure all-hazard preparedness in regions beyond the largest urban areas.
We also wonder what FY2012 has in store for the fusion centers, the UASI cities and the states. The current fiscal year was foreshortened due to ongoing congressional fights that delayed final passage of the federal budget until April 15 (which incidentally caused additional financial pain at the state and local levels as none of the grant money could be distributed). Now the FY2012 budget approval deadline, ostensibly October 1, is fast approaching, and all indications are that the reduced funding levels of FY2011 will be the new normal. If that’s the case, will the Tier-II cities dropped from the UASI program or the states that saw their SHSP funding cut ever attain their former grant levels again? And if not, what is to become of the 73 fusion centers in particular, and state and local homeland security capabilities more generally, over the long haul?
It is virtually certain that some consolidation will have to occur, but even then it will take a great deal of ingenuity to maintain effective capabilities with smaller or non-existent budgets. As English physicist Lord Rutherford is said to have told his research colleagues a century ago after a particularly bruising budget battle: “Gentlemen, we’ve got no money, so we’ve got to think.”
This is the sixth and final installment of our analysis of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s FY2011 homeland security grant programs, including comparisons with prior-year funding, assessments of how key grant programs will be distributed and analysis of the broader impact of major FY2011 grant program allocations on states and cities. Here’s a recap and links to the earlier installments:
Part 1 – Series introduction and analysis/estimates of SHSP funding
Part 2 – Analysis/estimates of UASI funding
Part 3 – Analysis/estimates of Transit Security Grant Program (TSGP) funding
Part 4 – Analysis of actual SHSP appropriations/allocations for FY2011
Part 5 – Analysis of actual UASI appropriations/allocations for FY2011
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