Brock Long Testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Appropriations Committee on a Wide Range of Issues
On Thursday, November 30, FEMA Administrator Brock Long testified before the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee on the Trump Administrations's request for an additional $23.5 billion in disaster relief funding for FEMA.
Administrator Long provided wide-ranging testimony. He not only spoke directly to the third supplemental funding request, but more importantly, he offered the Subcommittee his vision of what he wants to accomplish as FEMA Administrator. He said he didn't come to the job to maintain the status quo, stating he is looking to change the face of emergency management in the way the country addresses resiliency. He also stated he has hundreds of ideas on how FEMA should move forward in the future and shared with the subcommittee a few points he is considering:
- He is looking at how FEMA can be most effective in response and recovery.
- He is concerned funding is fragmented and confusing.
- He wants to enhance pre-disaster mitigation.
- He believes there is a need to ensure state and local capability.
- He is looking at how FEMA can best support state and local shareholders.
In addition, Administrator Long noted the need for a few changes in law. First, he expressed his concerned with the formula used to determine annual funding for the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF). He noted the formula is based in part on a 10-year average in disaster spending and that because the United States had not had a major hurricane prior to 2017 in 11 years, the DRF funding level will fall for the next several years, even as they expect to need more funding. Further, the Administrator stated his concern that the current National Flood Insurance Program is not sustainable and that even with the recent legislative cancelling of $16 billion in program debt, the program needs changes to remain viable.
Prior to the Administrator's testimony, several subcommittee members made opening statements. These statements were complimentary of Administrator Long and the work of FEMA, but all expressed concern that the amounts requested by the Administration were not adequate to deal with the full magnitude of the damage from this year's hurricanes and the California wildfires. Three subcommittee members, including Subcommittee Chairman John Carter, are from Texas and these members noted the need for more disaster relief funding for Texas. Other subcommittee members noted the magnitude of damage to Puerto Rico with several questions on recovery efforts there, especially with regards to the island's electrical grid.
In speaking with several subcommittee members and staff after the hearing there was a general consensus that Administrator Long was an impressive witness with a significant grasp of the details. Subcommittee staff could provide no timeline on when action on this 3rd supplemental disaster funding request will be completed. They expect it to be before the end of December, but with the need for some sort of budget deal to keep the federal government open beyond December 8th, they could offer nothing definite.
(Summary provided by Rick Healy)