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What Happens When the 'Grant Tree' Loses All Its Leaves?

from NMLEA

In the White House 2020 “A Budget for a Better America – Major Savings and Reforms,” a lot of things we have become accustomed to when it comes to grant programs, especially in the maritime realm, are going away. No, this is not an “April Fool’s” joke, nor is it “new” news, as there has been many discussions over the last few years about the reduction in the Port Security Grant Program, the State Homeland Security Grant Program and the Urban Area Security Initiatives, to name but a few. And although it isn’t likely to happen to the extent being proposed, it is worth paying attention to.

I have been preaching that the "Grant Tree" will eventually lose all its leaves for a number of years, and all over the country. I used it as a means to get people to focus on the long-term, and to promote the sustainability of training programs, long after the grant stream slows to a trickle. Yet people still build the majority of their training and readiness posture around those precious federal dollars (as do businesses selling their wares to those grantees.) When the end eventually arrives, there are going to be a lot of public safety agencies, at the local, county, state and tribal levels that see their maritime capabilities come to a grinding halt.

So how do we prepare for that right now? What could we do to in anticipation of the inevitable? Play with me just for a moment. Let's just ponder the consequences and ask ourselves, "What would we do if the leaves on the tree disappeared, instantly?

Some questions to ask yourself now, and things to start thinking about (if you haven't already):
  • How can I build trainers internally, that can keep up with the ever-evolving landscape (or seascape) of responsibilities, training requirements, and mission areas?
  • When the grants dry up, how can I get that national level of training brought to me and my department at an affordable price, since it’s now going to come out of general operating funds (less than $600 per student for courses that were usually five days long and cost tens of thousands of dollars)?
  • How could I have "on-demand" type training, that I could have my officers access instantly, at all hours of day and night, weekends and holidays?
  • How could I transition some of the training I do now at the academy level, or through in-service training, to a more affordable, manageable, mobile and immediately accessible framework?
  • With this rapidly changing workforce (see the White Paper on Navigating the Changing Seascape of Maritime Public Safety, or the one on Adjusting to the Incoming and Outgoing Tides of Training), how can I keep up with the loss of institutional knowledge (retiring senior level leaders and trainers), overcome the retention challenges, and answer the diversity issues?
What that thinking should have generated is a harsh reality check, and identify for you some things that you may not have previously considered when it comes to evaluating your present and future needs. And here's a newsflash: Even if you might not have received any grant dollars previously, and don't anticipate any in the future, all of these questions and challenges exist in your domain. It isn't just about the grant dollars, but that clearly has an impact on many departments.

Now, although that forecast and questions could cause you to lose some sleep, there are things that you can do (in addition to talking to your congressional representatives), solutions that are right in front of you, and steps that you can take to mitigate the impact if those grants were to get cut dramatically. The National Maritime Law Enforcement Academy has built programs for just these situations and c more


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