First Response Coalition decries $100 billion funding gap
A relaunched First Response Coalition yesterday released a report claiming that police, fire and emergency medical services will be underfunded by about $100 billion through 2008.
This truncated support is a stark contrast to the monies promised by lawmakers in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to Commissioner Bill Fox of the Metropolitan Fire Association of New York City.
“Unfortunately, that glowing rhetoric has turned into a bitter reality in which the promised funding is not being delivered,” Fox said.
Coalition officials noted that the $100 billion shortfall addresses only the amount of money budgeted for the Department of Homeland Security. It does not include funding losses suffered by other first-responder agencies or for issues such as funding needed for public-safety answering points.
Congress needs to immediately take steps to encourage regional interoperability and to ensure that more spectrum is made available to than the 24 MHz currently earmarked for public safety when broadcasters vacate 700 MHz airwaves as part of the digital-television transition.
While expressing the need for more spectrum to serve public-safety’s data and video needs, First Response Coalition Director Todd Main acknowledged that the short-term focus is to ensure that public safety gets its allotted spectrum from broadcasters as quickly as possible.
“The issue isn’t getting more than the 24 [MHz], it’s about getting the 24 [MHz] right away,” Main said.
Best known for raising the ire of many public-safety officials with its opposition to Nextel’s rebanding proposal in the 800 MHz interference, the First Response Coalition has been reorganizing since the 800 MHz proceeding concluded, Main said.
Previously an informal group, the First Response Coalition has become a qualified nonprofit organization and is beginning a membership campaign, Main said. Although the First Response Coalition continues to receive funds from Verizon Communications, it also hopes other corporate support, foundation grants and membership dues will provide the revenue necessary for its efforts.