CONGRESS APPROVES OMNIBUS SPENDING BILL

On Thursday, January 16th, the Senate approved H.R. 3547, the Fiscal Year 2014 omnibus spending bill. The $1.1 trillion dollar spending package funds the federal government through the end of the fiscal year and provides $39.3 billion in discretionary funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), a reduction of $336 million compared to the Fiscal Year 2013 enacted level for the department. The House approved the spending package earlier this week. The bill will now go to the White House for President Obama’s signature.

While the omnibus spending bill does reduce spending on homeland security programs, Congress did not make cuts to several important fire service programs. In fact the Assistance to Firefighters (FIRE) Grant Program and the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant Program are funded at higher levels — $340 million for each program. This is an increase of $2.5 million for each program over the Fiscal Year 2013 level. The bill also funds the United States Fire Administration (USFA) at $44 million, the same level as in Fiscal Year 2013, and rejects a proposal by the Administration to transfer the State Fire Training Assistance Grant from USFA to the FIRE Grant Program. The Urban Search and Rescue System is funded at $35.18 million, also the same amount the program received in Fiscal Year 2013.

“CFSI is proud to play a leading role in securing funding for these critical programs,” said Bill Webb, Executive Director of the Congressional Fire Services Institute. “Because the national fire service organizations are committed to working together in a cooperative manner, we have been able to demonstrate to Congress the importance of a federal investment in fire and emergency services.”

Congress is currently in recess until January 27th. When Congress returns, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees will begin work on the 12 Fiscal Year 2015 spending bills.