Structuring Homeland Security Grants: Florida's Local Finance Officials Evaluate the Funding Process

Article excerpt

Abstract

Homeland security preparedness is largely a local government activity. A fall 2005 survey of Florida city and county finance/ budget officials evaluates the fairness and adequacy of available federal and state homeland security funding from a local government perspective. Local officials were asked to evaluate federal and state funding allocations, competing approaches to the distribution of homeland security grant funding, the balance between response and prevention funding, and various approaches to intergovernmental organization for emergency management activities. We find that finance officials from small counties and cities are more likely than their larger counterparts to indicate a need for greater access to federal funding; but city officials from all sizes of jurisdictions are more likely than their county counterparts to report an interest in greater state funding. There is general consensus among small and large cities and counties that both population and risk-based factors should guide federal funding decisions, but city officials are more divided regarding this issue. Most of Florida's finance officials report satisfaction with the balance of prevention versus response grant offerings, but many would like to see more monies earmarked specifically for response activities. As to the best intergovernmental approach to emergency management, Florida's local officials are divided. Many see value in an approach that emphasizes either a predominantly local or state organizational structure, but they are in agreement that they do not want a centralized topdown federal structure. We find that the intergovernmental dynamics present in homeland security grant funding are the same as in previous grants-in-aid-even in the state ranked as the most prepared in the nation.

Introduction

In the homeland security arena, local governments function as critical venues for policy implementation (McGuire, 2002). Local governments must manage the vast majority of critical duties associated with emergency preparedness while first responder groups-emergency personnel, fire fighters, law enforcement, and local health care workers-provide the first line of defense in the event of a terrorist attack (Kayyem and Pangi, 2003; McVey, 2003). Local governments cannot fund these additional responsibilities alone. They need fiscal assistance from federal and state governments to help them fulfill their mandated duties. Intergovernmental transfers (grants-in-aid) for homeland security insure that the policy area will be wrought with intergovernmental complexities (Caruson and MacManus, 2006; Comfort, 2006; Kettl, 2004; Howitt and Pangi, 2003; U.S. General Accounting Office, 2001).

Historically, money battles-fiscal food fights- have resulted in intense competition for funds among the nation's states and localities2 (cf. Sullivan, 2006; Jordan, 2006). At the center of these debates are arguments over what is the fairest way to distribute available funds (or how best to measure "need") and what constitutes an adequate level of funding. Measuring "fairness" and "adequacy" has never been easy because they are concepts that are tempered by a jurisdiction's own fiscal, demographic, and political circumstances. For example, controversy over how to measure need and risk that erupted among the nation's cities when the Department of Homeland Security's released its proposed new funding formula3 (Hudson, 2006; Layton, 2006; Lipton, 2006). What was seen as fair by the City of Miami was judged to be totally unfair by New York City. At issue was how to measure need. Some cities argued that vulnerability-physical, demographic or socioeconomic (Cutter, Boruff and Shirley, 2003; Weichselgartner, 2001; Comfort et al, 1999) - is the best measure of need while others retorted that it should be measured in more fiscallybased terms.

There have also been intergovernmental battles over which level of government (federal, state, or local) should "be in charge"-the centralization v. …