He added, "Our nation's first responders – at all levels of government – need targeted and effective training to develop and hone the specialized skills they need to fulfill their new homeland security responsibilities. Anything less is simply unacceptable."
The hearing, which examined the national training program, examined anti-terrorism training for first responders and its effectiveness.
The subcommittee members heard from witnesses such as Ray Kelly, who, as the commissioner of the New York City Police Department, is very much on the front lines of the war on terrorism and "can speak directly to the importance of proper training in this daily battle with terrorists," said Cox.
Cox acknowledged that training first responders is an enormous task. He pointed out there are more than 1 million firefighters, 800,000 law enforcement officers and 840,000 EMTs and paramedics across the country. "As a result, when it comes to first responder training, as well as so many other homeland security responsibilities, we've got to make choices," said Cox. "We've got to focus our resources, in this case, on training those first responders most at risk, and on the most significant threats that our populations faces."
Terrorism preparedness training should include the prevention of terrorism, Cox added. "We must never
fail to take advantage of opportunities to stop terrorist in the first place - - even as we rightfully prepare for the worst," he said.
The Homeland Security Act of 2002 designates the Office for Domestic Preparedness – now the Office of State and Local Government Coordination and Preparedness (OSLGCP) – as the primary agency for coordinating federal terrorism preparedness training, but Cox noted that coordinating federal anti-terrorism training for first responders is "easier said than done." He pointed out that at least seven federal departments – including the Departments of Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services and Transportation – offer hundreds of training courses. Even within DHS itself, OSLGCP has no monopoly on training – the Directorates for Emergency Preparedness and Response, Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection and Border and Transportation Security each trains first responders. "This patchwork of programs creates opportunities for duplication, inefficiency and confusion," said Cox.
Despite all the federal training programs, state and local governments, academic institutions and professional organizations still provide the vast majority of training for first responders – some in partnership with DHS.
"How effective are they?" Cox asked. "Is the department doing enough to leverage existing state, regional and local training infrastructure? Does the
department certify non-federal training courses in a timely manner? Are we training first responders in the most efficient way possible?"