Despite claims by the White House that, "This bill reflects the president's commitment to defend America by making sure the federal government and state and local first responders have the resources they need to prevent terrorist attacks within the United States, reduce America's vulnerability to terrorism, and minimize damage from attacks that might occur," IAFF President Harold Schaitberger called on the president to explain the fact that funding for first responders in the FY2005 budget has been cut to $3.6 billion, about $500 million less than last year's total.
Schaitberger also pointed out that state homeland security block grants are being cut from $1.7 billion to $1.1 billion, a 35 percent decrease, and that FIRE Act Grants to purchase fire equipment for local departments have been cut from $750 million to $715 million, while Urban Search and Rescue grants, which totaled $60 million in FY2004, have been cut in half.
"Trying to score political points as the election nears is deplorable, yet that is what's behind Bush Administration claims of increases in homeland security funding over the previous administration. But those assertions are smoke and mirrors accounting. They ignore that the attacks of 9/11 have changed the way we must approach homeland security since the last administration," Schaitberger fumed.
"The fact is that this latest Homeland Security budget represents a cut over FY2004. This cut is irresponsible at best considering that an independent task force established by the Council on Foreign Relations said that our country will be $98.4 billion short of meeting "critical emergency responder needs" over the next five years if current funding levels in 2004 were maintained. Since Bush is now cutting those funds, we are falling farther and farther behind what is needed to protect the American people."
Schaitberger said President Bush has show his "true colors" in the budgets he has put forward to the nation on homeland security, not in the bills that Congress has passed, a nod to the fact that Congress has increased homeland security requests made by Bush in his budgets. "In Bush's first two budget proposals, he zeroed out funding for the FIRE Act program," said Schaitberger, adding, "President Bush fought against the SAFER Act that was passed last year by a bi-partisan Congress to put fire fighters in the two-thirds of America's fire departments that are under-staffed today. And when it was passed, he proposed that SAFER receive no funding."
Congress went against the President's wishes and provided funding for both the FIRE Act and the SAFER Act.