Washington, D.C. – The bickering between the Bush administration and the House Appropriations Committee chairman over who is to blame for the failure to provide adequate Homeland Security funds to first responders is “counterproductive to our efforts to protect the American people from terrorism,” the president of the nation’s fire fighters union stated.
In letters to President Bush, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, House Appropriations Committee Chairman C.W. Bill Young, and House Speaker Dennis Hastert, International Association of Fire Fighters President Harold A. Schaitberger said, “It is time to end the blame game, the political posturing, and the petty bickering that have crippled the efforts of the nation’s fire fighters and other first responders to prepare to handle the next terrorist attack on American soil.”
“The Iraq war will be fought on two fronts: one in the Middle East by our armed forces; and the other here at home by firefighters and other first responders. The federal government has taken the necessary steps to properly train, equip and staff our military forces for action in Iraq, but it has failed to provide the same level of support to our first responders across the nation,” said Schaitberger, whose 260,000 union fire fighters and paramedics protect 80 percent of the U.S. population.
“Three-hundred-forty-three of my members were killed in New York on Sept. 11, 2001 and thousands more of our fire fighters and paramedics responded in the days, weeks and months following the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon,” the Fire Fighters president said. “I want to assure you that the nation’s fire fighters are committed to responding once again to a terrorist attack, but they need specialized training, appropriate equipment and protective clothing, and adequate staffing to maximize their own protection as they put themselves in harm’s way to protect the public.”
“At this point, we don’t care who is to blame for underfunding Homeland Security money for first responders and we don’t think the American people do either,” Schaitberger said in his letters. “All we want is to secure the necessary funding before it is too late. The International Association of Fire Fighters is ready to provide you with any assistance you may need to determine the greatest needs of first responders. I am confident that organizations representing other first responders and the nation’s mayors, cities and governors are also prepared to roll up their sleeves and help.”
The IAFF was reacting to recent comments by President Bush blaming Congress for underfunding first responder programs and a March 6 letter by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Young to White House Chief of Staff Card refuting Bush’s claim. To read the text of the letter sent to letters to President Bush, White House Chief of Staff Card, House Speaker Hastert, and House Appropriations Committee Chair Young, visit www.iaff.com.