Washington, D.C. – The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) expressed shock and dismay following President Bush’s State of the Union address Tuesday night. Harold A. Schaitberger, General President of the IAFF, issued the following statement in response to the omission of fire fighters and requests for first responder funding initiatives in the president’s address: “It appears that President Bush has forgotten 9/11 and our first responders by neglecting the pressing needs of the fire service and its providers in his State of the Union address.”
Despite Bush’s insistence on making America more secure against terrorist threats, Schaitberger points to Tuesday night’s remarks as one more example of how this administration has not supported fire fighters or respected the fire service profession. “President Bush has refused or opposed using federal funds for the highly successful Assistance to Fire Fighters grant program or to hire fire fighters to address the nationwide staffing crisis,” said Schaitberger.
He noted that Bush made repeated references to law enforcement and police, but made no mention of fire fighters or the funding of programs for fire fighters or EMS personnel.
“America’s professional fire fighters are being stretched thin by shrinking state and local budgets and the added demands of terror alerts,” he explained. “Two-thirds of the country’s fire departments were understaffed before 9/11, and budget cuts continue to force layoffs among America’s fire service. Yet the Bush administration has taken a laissez-faire approach to ensuring the nation’s safety and security, as evidenced in last night’s state of the union speech.”
In a letter to President Bush, Schaitberger urged, “I hope that the absence of fire fighters and other first responders in your speech was simply an oversight and will be rectified when your upcoming budget is unveiled.”