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  4. Secretary Mayorkas Delivers Remarks at National Emergency Managers Association Mid-Year Forum

Secretary Mayorkas Delivers Remarks at National Emergency Managers Association Mid-Year Forum

Release Date: March 18, 2024

Secretary Mayorkas delivered the following remarks at the National Emergency Managers Association Mid-Year Forum in Washington, DC.

Thank you very much for the kind introduction.

Harold Denton, the longtime Director of the federal government’s Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation, whose leadership helped calm the panic across Pennsylvania during the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, was asked, years later, what he learned about emergency management during that crisis. He replied, “I’ve learned that emergencies can only be managed by people at the site. They can’t be managed back in Washington.”

Mr. Denton's insight has proven prescient. In the decades since Three Mile Island, communities of every size, everywhere, have faced emergencies of every sort – from floods to fires, cyber incidents to car crashes, and increasingly frequent mass shootings. In the face of these diverse challenges, it is you – the nation’s state and local emergency managers – and your teams who are the first on the scene and the last to leave, and often the key to keeping a dangerous, confusing, and frightening situation from spiraling out of control.

Since our founding, the Department of Homeland Security, through FEMA, has been mandated by the President with ensuring that you and your communities have the support and the resources you need to do your critical jobs. We augment your capabilities when disaster strikes, so that more of your constituents can get more support, recover faster, and build back better. We help identify your security vulnerabilities, and support your efforts and investments to help mitigate them.

First and foremost, we are your partner in keeping Americans safe and secure.

I’m very proud to be here with all of you today to help expand the close collaboration, open communication, and non-partisan commitment that are essential to furthering our shared mission. I thank the National Emergency Management Association’s leadership – including Secretary Russell Strickland, Secretary Lynn Budd, and Executive Director Tina Sheets – for the opportunity to speak with you this morning.

Partnership is, of course, a two-way street. Our Department provides the nation’s state, local, tribal, and territorial officials with billions of dollars in preparedness grant funding every year – more than $2 billion last year alone, and more than $55 billion since 2002. These funds are most effectively deployed in service of preparing for, preventing, protecting against, and responding to disasters, when the “people at the site,” as Denton called them – you, the emergency managers and first responders – have a seat at the allocation and governance table. That is why, throughout the last year, FEMA and my team and I have all worked closely with emergency preparedness and response stakeholders from across the country, including many of you and NEMA leadership, to update our Department’s grantmaking process to be more responsive to your and your communities’ needs. Over the last month alone, FEMA, at my direction, held five such engagement sessions.

Your insight is appreciated and your feedback is heard. To share one example: you advised that we should stop requiring Homeland Security Grant Program recipients to invest a three percent minimum spend on all six select National Priority Areas – designated threat categories that range from enhancing cybersecurity and community resilience to combating domestic violent extremism. As a direct result, I am pleased to announce this morning that, for the forthcoming 2024 fiscal year Homeland Security Grant Program, DHS and FEMA have retained a minimum spend requirements for only one of the six priorities – election security – given the year we are in and the gravity of the election security challenges already upon us and ahead of us.

This reform, this increased discretion and flexibility in how it is spent, will allow you and your teams – the people best positioned to ensure the safety and security of our communities – to more effectively address the most urgent homeland security priorities in your respective, local jurisdictions, without compromising our national preparedness.

Further engagement among us – DHS, NEMA, and you, the nation’s emergency managers – can help ensure that our Department’s grantmaking, and our support in all ways, are accessible, simple, transparent, and appropriately risk-driven for all who depend on them, this funding cycle and in the future. I am grateful for your candid collaboration throughout the last, and I ask for your continued partnership and leadership in the months ahead, as my team reaches out to convene further engagements and opportunities for your feedback and our actions based on it.

Such open and frank conversations are critical to meeting our shared mandate of building a more prepared, more resilient, more secure nation for every American. For 50 years, NEMA has been key to facilitating the convenings and connections necessary to do so. Congratulations on your anniversary, and thank you for helping the Department of Homeland Security be the partner our nation’s emergency managers deserve.

Thank you all very much for being here, and thank you for everything that you do to keep our nation safe.


Last Updated: 03/18/2024
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