Sugar Land (TX) Mayor Wallace Testifies on USCM Homeland Security Priorities
By Ed Somers
October 31, 2005
Sugar Land (TX) Mayor David G. Wallace testified before the House Homeland Security Committee on October 19, outlining a number of priorities for The U.S. Conference of Mayors. Wallace serves as Co-Chair of the Homeland Security Task Force.
Wallace discussed: 1) Emergency response and management issues and priorities identified by The United States Conference of Mayors; 2) Key “lessons-learned” at the local government level from the Katrina and Rita natural disaster events; and 3) What a broad group of cities and counties are doing in conjunction with the Houston-Galveston Area Council to establish and implement a Regional Logistics Center (RLC). This center will to build local capacity to deal effectively with the immediate needs of a community following natural or terrorist disasters.
“Since the early days after September 11, 2001, the nation’s mayors have expressed serious concern with the system for coordinating preparedness and response to both acts of terrorism and natural disasters,” Wallace said. He added that, “The United States Conference of Mayors has continued to support the concept of direct funding,” and he made the following recommendations:
- Congress should ensure the restrictions and rules that govern the distribution and use of federal homeland security funds, such as limiting the use of funds for overtime, do not adversely affect the ability of cities and local areas to protect citizens.
- Authorizing legislation should ensure that the waiver of the Cash Management Act, that has been approved by Congress for fiscal years 2005 and 2006, is made permanent, and made retroactive for fiscal years prior to 2005.
- Congress should work with the Conference of Mayors to make other refinements needed to the first responder program.
On the issue of communications interoperability, Wallace urged Congress to pass legislation to establish a firm date for the transition of analog broadcast to digital – hopefully by no later than December 31, 2006. “This is needed to avoid the dangerous congestion on existing voice channels that we experience today,” Wallace said.
Wallace also focused on the Conference’s support for advance notification for hazardous freight rail. “Mayors recognize that there are sensitive issues that need to be addressed, such as concern that terrorists might also mistakenly gain access to such information, and the freight rail carriers are apprehensive about sharing their client’s proprietary commercial information. We want to work with Congress and the Administration to address these issues so a system of advance notification can be implemented,” the Mayor said. He added that Sugar Land is working with the rail companies to develop a Pilot Program for Immediate Disaster/Manifest Notification which he hopes can be duplicated nation-wide with help from Congress and governors.
On the issue of the role of the military, which was a major point of interest for the Committee, Wallace said, “Mayors favor a coordinated approach to deploying military and state assistance in response and recovery efforts. The role of first responder should always be filled by true first responders—the police, fire fighters, and EMTs in our communities. Rather than confer lead agency status on the military it would be helpful if the processes that trigger federal assistance were improved.”
Mayor Wallace also promoted priorities of the Conference related to regional logistics centers, and city-to-city mutual aid agreements.