White House Recommends Cuts to Key Fire Service Programs

The White House unveiled the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget proposal. The $3.9 trillion budget, which is an estimated increase of $250 billion over the Fiscal Year 2014 levels, contains $38.2 billion for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. This represents a decrease of approximately $1 billion from Fiscal Year 2014 appropriations for the department.

Several programs of importance to the nation’s fire and emergency services are among those considered for budget cuts under the administration’s proposal. The Assistance to Firefighters (FIRE) and the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant programs would be reduced by $10 million to $670 million for both grant programs. Congress appropriated $680 million in Fiscal Year 2014, which was an increase of $5 million over the previous fiscal year.

The budget would reduce funding for the United States Fire Administration’s budget to $41.407 million – approximately the same amount the Administration requested for Fiscal Year 2014 and $2.6 million less than the $44 million approved by Congress for Fiscal Year 2014. The budget would also cut funding for the Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Response System by approximately twenty percent. The Administration proposes $27.513 million compared to $35.18 million Congress approved for the current fiscal year.

The Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) Program is one fire service program that would virtually remain intact. VFA provides funding to state forestry agencies to deliver grants to fire departments for the purchase of firefighting equipment and training to respond to wildland fires in rural jurisdictions. The Administration proposes $13 million in funding for Fiscal Year 2015, a slight decrease from the $13.025 million appropriated for Fiscal Year 2014.

“While a President’s budget proposal reflects the fiscal priorities of an administration, it is the Congress that appropriates the funds,” said Bill Webb, CFSI Executive Director. “So now that the White House has released its budget, CFSI will begin its work with the other national fire service organizations and our supporters on Capitol Hill to shield these programs from budget cuts as Congress begins its work on the Fiscal Year 2015 appropriations legislation.”

Due in a large part to the national fire service organizations commitment to working together, Congress has shown a great deal of support for these programs in recent years. Both the Senate and House Appropriations Committees will now begin work on drafting spending bills for the upcoming fiscal year. CFSI will continue to provide updates throughout the process.

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