State Emergency Planners See Feds Downplaying Disasters and Local Input

April 18, 2006

State emergency planning officials think the federal government homeland security planning underemphasizes natural disasters, an issue which is at the top of their list.

States are also making plans to deal with a possible pandemic influenza.

A new issue brief from the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices examines the challenges facing 55 state homeland security directors.

State homeland security directors view the primary Department of Homeland Security state grant program as underemphasizing disaster prevention and recovery.

Eighty percent of the state officials say are in the process of coordinating homeland security plans with infrastructure owned by the private sector. For example, more than 50 percent of homeland security directors report coordinating with surrounding states to protect ports, transit systems, agriculture, energy infrastructure, water infrastructure and public health infrastructure.

State homeland security directors are concerned about what they see as a lack of state input into federal policy development. Directors are nearly unanimous in their recommendation that the federal government coordinate with states prior to adopting and implementing policies.

The multiple demands on National Guard forces have left more than half of the states with a diminished capability to meet responsibilities of state emergency plans.

A majority of homeland security directors are somewhat or completely dissatisfied with the specificity and actionable quality of the intelligence their states receive from the federal government.

“At all levels of government, homeland security organizations are still in their infancy…As these organizations gain their institutional footing, questions abound for policymakers. What does an effective state homeland security strategy look like?…What are the top priorities of the men and women charged with protecting state citizens from terrorism and other disasters?” the brief states.

“Homeland security continues to evolve to meet a host of natural and man-made challenges,” said John Thomasian, director of the NGA Center. “This year’s survey showed that states continue to progress, maintaining efforts from previous years while recognizing that new threats also must be addressed.”

Individual homeland security directors offered strategies for streamlining federal-state relations, increasing the state role in DHS decision making and working with the private sector. Proposed efforts include increasing flexibility for state use of DHS funds, producing more information to make federal intelligence usable and decreasing onerous paperwork requirements.

Source: National Governors Association

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