The Dollars Are in the Details
There are three AFG priorities that the peer and technical review panelists will be looking for once an application reaches the second stage of the grant review process this year:
- Regional projects that allow organizations and jurisdictions to address "new risks"
- Interoperable communications projects that meet both state and federal interoperability communications plans
- Projects that enhance the capabilities of first responders to manage incidents involving CBRNE (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or explosives) materials or respond to incidents involving natural or technological disasters and protect elements of the community’s critical infrastructure
The FY2008 AFG program guidance stated that applications that address these priorities and demonstrate an effective cost-benefit ratio will score higher than applications that are inconsistent with them.
DHS and FEMA have placed emphasis on regional projects for the past few AFG program cycles. Indeed, jurisdictions with small populations and run volumes have been encouraged to engage in regional project applications for the past several years. In the case of firefighter operations and safety programs funds, the key to acquiring interoperable communications equipment is that the equipment serve "multiple" seats-of-government.
The AFG guidance this year indicates that a regional application may include a request for a vehicle given that a vehicle serves a regional purpose. The specific example identified in the guidance is the funding of a regional HazMat/CBRNE response vehicle.
The guidance also makes the distinction between a project addressing a "new risk" versus a "new mission."
Applications that allow an organization to address a new risk within the community will score higher that those applications that allow an organization to diversify into a new service (mission).
Unfortunately, AFG guidance states that the purchase of turnouts, SCBA, wellness and fitness, modification to facilities, and vehicle acquisition activities are not eligible as regional projects.
I find it interesting that the both the AFG and the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) grant program have identified the priority of allowing first responder organizations to respond to incidents involving CBRNE. While not stated in the AFG guidance, the continued persistence of DHS to make certain that first responders are capable of detecting radiation and providing initial decontamination and treatment of chemical casualties intrigues me.
While I recognize that HazMat response and decontamination are both identified as critical tasks within the National Preparedness Guidelines, I think that this insistence by DHS that grant funds be used to prepare first responders for these tasks may provide some insight into the data that the intelligence community might be developing.
Attention to the details during the review of your AFG application, and ensuring that your narrative addressed the priorities discussed in the program guidance, may very well provide your organization with an edge in the review process this year.