The IAFF successfully inserted the $7.7 billion program to hire 75,000 new fire fighters into the 435-page bill, which funds the Pentagon's operations. A bi-partisan coalition pushed the measure through Congress.
"I am very pleased that we were able to include SAFER as part of the defense authorization. Ensuring adequate staffing and providing sufficient resources to our domestic defenders is essential to safeguarding our homeland," said Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Duncan Hunter (R-CA). Ironically, Hunter, a longtime supporter of federal fire fighters, lost his home in the recent wildfires that ravaged California.
The IAFF will now shift its lobbying efforts to the appropriations process to ensure that SAFER is fully funded for the duration of the program.
"In spite of the administration's opposition to SAFER, we applaud the President for signing this initiative into law. The IAFF encourages President Bush to embrace this program and provide funding in his budget proposal for the coming year," commented IAFF President Harold A. Schaitberger.
The inclusion of the SAFER provision in the Defense Authorization bill was the culmination of several years of work by fire fighter allies in Congress. Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Sen. John Warner (R-VA) offered the IAFF proposal as an amendment to the Defense bill on the Senate floor. Rep. Sherry Boehlert (R-NY) led the efforts in the House to assure that the provision would survive a conference committee, and Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA) put together the final compromise. Other lawmakers who played key roles were Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), and Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), Rep. Jack Quinn (R-NY), and Rep. Gene Green (D-TX).