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DHS wants to boost cybersecurity, shrink FEMA programs

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Boosts to DHS cybersecurity operations could mean some reductions in FEMA funding 

In testimony before Senate appropriators on homeland security, May 8, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said the Trump Administration’s FY 2019 budget request includes $158 million to protect the country’s interoperable emergency communications systems and shore up  DHS protection for the nation’s election systems.

 “We know that a sophisticated adversary can put the foundations of our democracy at risk through cyberattacks, which is why our request for FY 2019 would make sure DHS is positioned to counter foreign meddling by supporting state and local election officials in defending the integrity of elections systems,” Nielsen said.

“The budget also would provide $158 million to secure the nation’s interoperable emergency communications capabilities that enable first responders and government officials to continue to communicate in the event of natural or man-made disasters,” she added.

The administration’s budget proposes $47.5 billion in net discretionary funding for DHS, and an additional $6.7 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) for response and recovery to major disasters.

And while NACo applauds DHS and the administration for an increased focus on cybersecurity and more funding for responding to natural disasters, it remains uneasy about other provisions in the budget request that include significant cuts to programs important to local governments. These include:

Reduced federal funding for five specific preparedness grant programs (the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI), State Homeland Security Grant Program (SHSGP), Emergency Management Performance Grants (EMPG) and Public Transportation Security Assistance (PTSA) by a combined $471.7 million, or 29 percent.

Reduced federal funding for FEMA’s budget for education, training, and exercises by $129.2 million, or 47 percent.

Reduced federal funding for the Pre-Disaster Mitigation grant program by $61 million, or 61 percent.

The elimination of FEMA’s budget for the Emergency Food and Shelter program, a cut of $120 million.

NACo, along with the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) and the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA), has advised the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of their concerns in maintaining funding for items important to local governments.  

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