Budget slashes first responder programs

Several grant programs that have benefited first responders and public health officials in the past would be eliminated in President Bush’s fiscal 2007 budget.

In the proposed budget, Justice Department officials have slated to cut $128 million for the COPS Law Enforcement Technology grants program. COPS, which stands for Community Oriented Policing Services, is a program that began during President Clinton’s administration and has distributed funding to get more police officers on the street and help deploy technology.

Although popular with the law enforcement community, Bush administration officials have been trying to end COPS for some time because they say the program has been unable to demonstrate its impact on reducing crime. There is “little justification for continued funding,” according to a budget document. Money will be redirected to other higher priority programs, the document states.

Several other Homeland Security Department programs would also be eliminated in the fiscal 2007 proposal because of overlap with other grant programs or completion of program goals, according to the proposed budget.

One example is the $30 million Metropolitan Medical Response System, which is a 10-year-old program to help enhance emergency preparedness systems in case of a public health crisis. Another DHS program that could be eliminated is the Commercial Equipment Direct Assistance Program that would help provide a variety of equipment, technologies and technical assistance to selected jurisdictions in accordance with their state’s homeland security strategies. That program’s funding this year is about $50 million.

In the proposed budget, firefighters would lose the $109 million Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response – better known as SAFER – grants program that helps fire departments partially pay for newly hired employees. Also $40 million for the REAL ID Act, which would establish a national set of standards for driver’s license and personal identification cards, would be cut. According to the budget document, existing DHS systems would allow states to comply with the act within existing resources.

The administration is again proposing to end the Commerce Department’s Advanced Technology Program (ATP), which is funds high-risk technology that has commercial purposes.

“Federal subsidies to industry for ATP projects are not appropriate or necessary, given the growth of venture capital and other financing sources for high-tech projects and the profit incentive private entities have to commercialize new technologies,” according to a budget document.

“This proposal is consistent with recent congressional action on ATP, which provided $136 million in 2005 with no funding for new grants, and $79 million in 2006 to cover existing grants and enable the program’s close-out,” the document states.

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