Calling the feuding "counterproductive to our efforts to protect the American people from terrorism," International Association of Fire Fighters President Harold A. Schaitberger sent letters to President Bush, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, House Appropriations Committee Chairman C.W. Bill Young and House Speaker Dennis Hastert. Schaitberger was reacting to recent comments by President Bush blaming Congress for underfunding first responder programs and a March 6 letter by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Young to White House Chief of Staff Card refuting Bush's claim.
"It is time to end the blame game, the political posturing, and the petty bickering that have crippled the efforts of the nation's fire fighters and other first responders to prepare to handle the next terrorist attack on American soil," Schaitberger wrote. "The Iraq war will be fought on two fronts: one in the Middle East by our armed forces; and the other here at home by firefighters and other first responders."
He claimed that while the federal government has taken the necessary steps to properly train, equip and staff military forces for action in Iraq, it has failed to provide the same level of support to first responders.
"At this point, we don't care who is to blame for underfunding Homeland Security money for first responders and we don't think the American people do either," Schaitberger said in his letters. "All we want is to secure the necessary funding before it is too late. The International Association of Fire Fighters is ready to provide you with any assistance you may need to determine the greatest needs of first responders. I am confident that organizations representing other first responders and the nation's mayors, cities and governors are also prepared to roll up their sleeves and help."