House Passes FY 2013 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill

On June 7, the U.S. House of Representatives voted by a margin of 234-182 to pass H.R. 5855, the Fiscal Year 2013 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act. The bill as agreed to by the House provides $337.5 million each for the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant programs, the same level of funding provided in FY 2012. 

H.R. 5855 originally only provided $335 million each for AFG and SAFER, but an amendment supported by the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) that was offered by Congressmen Jon Runyan (R-NJ) and Larry Kissell (D-NC) restoring funding to last years’ level was adopted by a voice vote during consideration of the bill by the full House of Representatives. Another amendment supported by the NVFC restoring funding for federal Urban Search and Rescue teams was also adopted.

H.R. 5855 also provides $42.46 million for the United State Fire Administration (USFA), a reduction of $1.578 million from FY 2012 that, if enacted, would represent the lowest level of funding for USFA since 1999. Since 2002, USFA’s funding has been cut by more than 35 percent. Past funding reductions have resulted in delays in the development of new courses, revisions of existing curriculum, and facilities maintenance. The bill also provides more than $1.7 billion for other state and local grant programs administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), an increase of more than $400 million over the FY 2012 appropriated level.

With H.R. 5855 passing the House, the focus on FY 2013 homeland security spending shifts to the Senate. Last month, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a separate DHS appropriations bill (S. 3216) that provides $337.5 million each for AFG and SAFER, $44.02 million for USFA, and $1.54 billion for FEMA state and local grant programs. The national Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) will continue to be engaged as the FY 2013 appropriations process moves forward to ensure that adequate funding is provided for programs that are critical to the volunteer emergency services.