Mr. PASCRELL. I want to thank Chairman BART GORDON; Subcommittee Chairman DAVE WU; Mr. Mitchell; Chairman Thompson; and my friend who is not here today on the other side, PETER KING. They all deserve recognition as partners in this quest to get people's attention on the most neglected side of the public safety equation, our firefighters.
This legislation, we think, is unique. We had a difficult time in the beginning when were writing this legislation. It took about 2 1/2 years. We had about enough people to fit in a telephone booth. And then we brought the firefighters to Washington, and all of a sudden, we had over 280 sponsors.
In the 106th Congress, prior to, the former speaker just pointed out, 9/11, that FIRE Act passed. It had bipartisan support. There was no Federal support for our brave firefighters, be they career or volunteer. They were working with outdated equipment. In some places in the country, they had to push the equipment to the fire, literally. They couldn't get the necessary training in order to provide the best protection for their local communities.
The one thing we made sure we took care of is that there would not be a differential, there would not be a firewall, so to speak, between the volunteers and the career. If you look at the grants of the first 5 or 6 years, there is an over-preponderance of volunteer departments, because we did not want to make this what so many bills in the past had been.
And I might add, Mr. Chairman, this money goes directly to the communities, no skimming, no nonsense: $6.5 billion, both of these bills, the SAFER bill, which deals with our personnel, in 9 years, over $15 billion requested. We are far from even close to responding to the needs that existed before 9/11.
This legislation, in its ranking and review, the FIRE Grants program itself received the second highest rating of any program in the Department of Homeland Security. The only agency that beat it out by one percentage point was the Secret Service.
Since the inception of the FIRE and SAFER grants, the programs have provided over, as I said, $6.5 billion for our local communities. And the point I want to make here is that the FIRE Grants programs are as vital and necessary today as they were in 2000.