Mayors' group urges bigger military role in emergency response

The U.S. Conference of Mayors on Monday recommended changes to the federal government's procedures for responding to emergencies, including greater military assistance and "fixing" the role of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"The current legal paradigm is that the military is viewed as the 'resource of last resort' deployed to restore order," the group said in a statement. "Because of the sheer magnitude of the hurricane events recently experienced, and because acts of terrorism may spring up during or in the wake of such natural disasters, it is advantageous to consider an increased role for the military in disaster response."

Beverly O'Neill, who is the president of the conference and mayor of Long Beach, Calif., said cities need the authority to access military resources during the first critical hours and days following a natural disaster or terrorist attack.

The group announced the recommendations after a closed-door meeting with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff where they discussed their proposals and asked for a seat at the table as President Bush and the secretary discuss the military's role and other issues after hurricanes Katrina and Rita. O'Neill said Chertoff vowed to work with the mayors but did not assure them that the department would meet their recommendations.

The mayors said they would like the Bush administration and Congress to let FEMA reimburse cities that provide "first responders" and other resources to other cities during emergencies. They also would like the federal government to address liability concerns that city officials have when sending assets to other cities.

The group said Congress should provide funding to help police officers, firefighters and other emergency personnel to acquire technology so they can communicate effectively during crises. Congress has been providing funding to solve the so-called interoperability problem since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The mayors said Congress must restore funding cuts for first-responder grants. Lawmakers earlier this month cut $600 million from the grants, arguing that billions of dollars from previous years had not been spent.

The mayors said they are frustrated with Congress' decision. They said state governments have yet to push the money down the pipeline to local governments. To alleviate the problem, the mayors recommended that Congress restructure the grants to distribute funding directly to the local officials.

The mayors also want the government to let city officials use the current funding streams for first responders for a 311 system. The system, similar to the emergency 911 telecommunications system, would be used to handle large volumes of incoming calls during city-wide emergencies.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    Download
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.