Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

Shown Here:
Reported to House amended, Part IV (06/21/2004)

Faster and Smarter Funding for First Responders Act of 2004 - (Sec. 3) Directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to: (1) establish clearly defined essential capabilities for State and local government preparedness for terrorism for purposes of covered grants (i.e., any grant provided by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to States, regions, or directly eligible tribes to improve the ability of first responders to prevent, prepare for, respond to, or mitigate terrorist attacks, including any grant under DHS's State Homeland Security Grant Program or Urban Area Security Initiative); and (2) establish (within 30 days after receipt of the initial submission of a final report) and regularly update (at least every three years) essential capabilities.

Defines "directly eligible tribe" to mean any Indian tribe or consortium of tribes that: (1) meets the criteria to participate in self-governance set forth in the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act; (2) employs at least ten full-time personnel in a law enforcement or emergency response agency with the capacity to respond to calls for law enforcement or emergency services; and (3) is located on or within five miles of an international border or waterway, within five miles of a facility within a critical infrastructure sector, or within or contiguous to one of the 50 largest metropolitan statistical areas, or has more than 1,000 square miles of Indian country.

Directs the Secretary to ensure that essential capabilities are provided promptly to Congress and to the States (which shall make such capabilities available to local governments) and that such capabilities meet objectives for: (1) specificity regarding the training, planning, personnel, and equipment that different types of communities should have to meet DHS's goals for terrorism preparedness based upon the most current terrorism risk assessment available; (2) flexibility to allow State and local government officials to set priorities based on particular needs, while reaching nationally determined terrorism preparedness levels within a specified period; and (3) measurability of progress towards specific terrorism preparedness goals.

Directs the Secretary, in establishing essential capabilities, to specifically consider the variables of threat, vulnerability, and consequences with respect to the Nation's population and critical infrastructure based upon the most current terrorism risk assessment available by the Directorate for Information Analysis and Infrasturcture Protection. Directs the Secretary to specifically consider terrorism threats against the following U.S. critical infrastructure sectors: (1) agriculture; (2) banking and finance; (3) chemical industries; (4) the defense industrial base; (5) emergency services; (6) energy; (7) food; (8) government; (9) postal and shipping; (10) public health; (11) information and telecommunications networks; (12) transportation; (13) water; and (14) courts and justice facilities.

Directs the Secretary to establish the Task Force on Essential Capabilities for First Responders. Requires the Task Force to submit to the Secretary triennial reports on essential capabilities of State and local government responders regarding terrorism preparedness, prevention, protection, response, and mitigation. Directs the Task Force to specifically consider critical infrastructure sectors and threats, including: (1) biological, nuclear, radiological, incendiary, chemical, and cyber threats; (2) explosives; (3) suicide bombers; and (4) any other threats based on proximity to specific past acts of terrorism or the known activity of any terrorist group.

Makes any State, region, or directly eligible tribe eligible to apply for a covered grant. Directs the Secretary, in awarding covered grants, to assist States and local governments in achieving the essential capabilities for first responders. Directs that for purposes of awarding covered grants, credibility of the threat shall be weighted more than population concentration, critical infrastructure, or any other consideration.

Directs the Secretary to require that any State applying for a covered grant submit a three-year State homeland security plan that: (1) demonstrates the extent to which the State has achieved, and what is still needed for the State to achieve, the applicable essential capabilities; (2) describes the extent to which the State used a specified methodology to evaluate the level of its essential capabilities; (3) includes a prioritization of such additional needs based on threat, vulnerability, and consequence assessment factors; (4) describes how the State intends to address such additional needs at the city, county, regional, State, and interstate level (and with respect to any Indian tribes within its boundaries), with particular emphasis on regional planning and cooperation within its jurisdictional borders and with neighboring States; and (5) is developed in consultation with and subject to appropriate comment by local governments.

Prohibits the Secretary from awarding any covered grant to a State unless the Secretary has approved its homeland security plan. Directs the Secretary to ensure that each covered grant is used to supplement and support the applicable State's homeland security plan.

Sets forth application requirements and deadlines and requirements regarding equipment standards. Limits the Secretary to making covered grants directly to not more than 20 directly eligible tribes per fiscal year.

Directs the Secretary to establish a First Responder Grants Board, consisting of: (1) the Secretary; (2) the Under Secretaries for Emergency Preparedness and Response, Border and Transportation Security, Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection, and Science and Technology; and (6) the Director of the Office for Preparedness. Designates the Secretary as Chairman of the Board. Directs the Board to evaluate and annually prioritize all pending applications for covered grants based upon the degree to which they would lessen the threat to, vulnerability of, and consequences for persons and critical infrastructure, and to ensure that, for each fiscal year: (1) the States, the District of Columbia, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico each receive no less than .25 percent of the funds available for covered grants for implementing its homeland security plan in accordance with the prioritization of additional needs; (2) the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands each receive no less than .08 percent of the funds available for covered grants for such purposes; and (3) directly eligible tribes collectively receive no less than .25 percent of the funds available for covered grants for purposes of addressing needs identified in their applications, consistent with the homeland security plan of each State within which any part of any such tribe is located.

Specified used of covered grants, including: (1) equipment and exercises to strengthen terrorism preparedness and response; (2) training for prevention of, preparedness for, or response to attacks involving weapons of mass destruction; (3) response plans; (4) mechanisms for sharing terrorism threat information; (5) strategy formulation and strategic planning and prototype development for terrorism preparedness and response purposes; (6) additional personnel costs resulting from elevations in the Homeland Security Advisory System threat alert level; (7) enhancing facilities to serve as operations centers or hardening critical infrastructure against potential attack; (8) commercially available equipment that facilitates coordination and integration between emergency communications systems; (9) educational curricula development for first responders; and (10) training and exercises to assist public elementary and secondary schools in developing and implementing terrorism response programs. Prohibits funds from being used: (1) to supplant State or local funds for traditional missions of State and local law enforcement, firefighters, emergency medical services, or public health agencies; (2) to construct buildings or other physical physical facilities; (3) to acquire land; or (4) for any State or local government cost-sharing contribution.

Prohibits the Secretary from requesting that equipment paid for with covered grant funds be made available for responding to emergencies in surrounding States, regions, and localities, unless the Secretary pays the costs of transporting and operating such equipment.

Allows the Secretary to authorize a covered grant recipient, upon request, transfer grant funds from uses specified in the grant agreement to other uses authorized in this Act if such transfer is in the interests of homeland security.

Directs the Secretary to require a recipient that is a State to make available to local governments, first responders, and other local groups, to the extent required under the State homeland security plan, not less than 80 percent of the grant funds, equivalent resources purchased with the grant funds, or a combination thereof within 45 days after receiving the grant funds.

Limits the Federal share of the cost of an activity carried out with a covered grant to a State or region to 100 percent with respect to grants awarded within two years after this Act's enactment or 75 percent with respect to grants awarded thereafter. Allows each recipient to meet the matching requirement by making in-kind contributions of goods or services that are directly linked with the grant's purpose. Requires any State recipient to certify to the Secretary, within 30 days, that it has made the required amount of grant funds available to local governments, groups, and first responders.

Sets forth annual reporting requirements by recipients on homeland security spending, including restricted annexes (for sensitive but unclassified information). Requires: (1) each recipient of a covered grant that is a directly eligible tribe to simultaneously submit its report to each State within which any part of such tribe is located; and (2) the Secretary to ensure that each report is provided to the Under Secretary for Emergency Preparedness and Response and the Director of the Office for Domestic Preparedness.

Authorizes the Secretary, if a State recipient fails to pass through funds or resources to local governments, groups, or first responders within 45 days after receiving grant funds, to: (1) reduce grant payments; (2) transfer payment of funds directly to local first responders; or (3) impose additional restrictions on the State's use of grant funds. Authorizes the Governor of a State to request and the Secretary to grant a 15-day extension of such 45-day period if the resulting delay will not have a significant detrimental impact on terrorism preparedness efforts. Authorizes the Secretary to pay a local government, upon request, a portion of the amount awarded to a State for such government to use to expedite planned terrorism preparedness enhancements if the State has failed to pass through funds or resources.

Requires the Secretary to submit an annual report to Congress by December 31 of each year on the amount of Federal funds provided as covered grants to each State and region, the use of such grant funds, and the extent to which essential capabilities were created or enhanced or remain unmet, and an estimate of Federal, State, and local expenditures required to attain such capabilities across the United States.

Directs the Secretary to support the development of, promulgate, and update national voluntary consensus standards for: (1) the performance, use, and validation of first responder equipment, which shall be consistent with existing standards, take into account new types of terrorism threats, and focus on maximizing interoperability, interchangeability, durability, flexibility, efficiency, efficacy, portability, sustainability, and safety; and (2) first responder training under covered grant programs that will enable State and local government first responders to achieve optimal levels of terrorism preparedness as quickly as practicable. Lists required categories of first responder equipment. Requires the Secretary to include the following categories of first responder activities: (1) regional planning; (2) joint exercises; (3) intelligence collection, analysis, and sharing; (4) emergency notification of affected populations; and (5) detection of biological, nuclear, radiological, and chemical weapons of mass destruction. Directs the Secretary, in establishing such training standards, to consult with relevant public and private sector groups, including the International Safety Equipment Association.

Includes within the definition of "emergency response providers" fire personnel, agencies, and authorities.

(Sec. 4) Directs the Secretary to: (1) revise the Homeland Security Advisory System to require that any designation of a threat level or other warning indicate the geographic regions or economic sectors to which the designation applies; and (2) report to Congress by December 31 each year regarding the geographic region-specific warnings and economic sector-specific warnings issued under the System and the bases for such warnings.

(Sec. 5) Amends the Homeland Security Act to make the Special Assistant to the Secretary responsible for coordinating industry efforts, with respect to DHS functions, to identify private sector resources and capabilities that could be effective in supplementing Federal, State, and local government agency efforts to prevent or respond to a terrorist attack.

(Sec. 6) Provides that this Act supersedes provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act regarding the allocation of grant funds for State and local domestic preparedness support.

(Sec. 7) Expresses the sense of Congress that: (1) interoperable emergency communications systems and radios should be deployed as soon as practicable for use by the first responder community, and upgraded and new digital communications systems and new digital radios must meet prevailing national, voluntary consensus standards for interoperability; and (2) individual Citizen Corps councils should seek to enhance the preparedness and response capabilities of all organizations participating in the councils, including by providing funding to as many of their participating organizations as practicable to promote local terrorism preparedness programs.

(Sec. 9) Directs the Secretary to study and report to Congress on the feasibility of establishing an emergency telephonic alert notification system that will alert persons about imminent or current hazardous events caused by acts of terrorism and appropriate measures to take for their safety.

(Sec. 10) Authorizes appropriations to the Secretary for FY 2006 for making covered grants.

(Sec. 11) Authorizes the Secretary to: (1) enter into contracts with certified contractors for security enhancements and technical assistance for high-risk nonprofit organizations; and (2) issue Federal loan guarantees to financial institutions in connection with loans made to nonprofits for security enhancements and technical assistance. Permits the Secretary to guarantee loans under this section only to the extent provided for in advance by appropriations Acts and only to the extent such loans have favorable repayment terms.

Directs the Secretary to designate nonprofits as high-risk eligible for contracts or loans based on the vulnerability of the specific site of the nonprofit to international terrorist attacks. Sets guidelines for vulnerability determinations, including the symbolic value of the site as a highly recognized U.S. cultural or historical institution that renders the site a possible target of international terrorism or the role of the nonprofit in responding to international terrorist attacks. Requires the nonprofit to provide the Secretary with documentation that it: (1) hosted a gathering of at least 100 or more persons at least once each month at the nonprofit site during the preceding 12 months; or (2) provides services to at least 500 persons each year at that site.

Allows funds borrowed from lending institutions, which are guaranteed by the Government, to be used for technical assistance and security enhancements. Requires a nonprofit desiring assistance to submit a separate application for each specific site needing security enhancements or technical assistance. Authorizes joint applications.

Allows each State to establish a State Homeland Security Authority to carry out this section. Sets forth requirements regarding application submission, evaluation, and appeal.

Directs the Secretary to select applications for execution of security enhancement and technical assistance contracts, or issuance of loan guarantees, giving preference to the nonprofits determined to be at greatest risk of attack.

Authorizes the Secretary to provide grants to local governments to offset incremental costs associated with law enforcement in areas where there is a high concentration of nonprofits.

Establishes within DHS the Office of Community Relations and Civic Affairs to: (1) administer grant programs for nonprofits and local law enforcement assistance; (2) coordinate community relations efforts of DHS; (3) serve as the official liaison of the Secretary to the nonprofit, human and social services, and faith-based communities; and (4) assist in coordinating the needs of those communities with the Citizen Corps program.

Authorizes appropriations for FY 2005 through 2007 to DHS: (1) to carry out the nonprofit program; (2) for local law enforcement assistance grants; (3) for the Office of Community Relations and Civic Affairs; and (4) for amounts required under the Federal Credit Act with respect to Federal loan guarantees authorized by this Act, subject to a specified limitation.