- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 6, 2002

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will recruit and train an army of 400,000 Citizen Corps volunteers in medical care and other skills to be ready for the next terrorist attack, FEMA Director Joe M. Allbaugh told United Press International yesterday.

President Bush's budget proposal calls for FEMA to start recruitment efforts for the volunteers and dispense a massive $3.5 billion in grants to local emergency agencies.

The plan means FEMA would assume new responsibilities in the war on terrorism with a ramped-up budget and power.

"Everyone wants to help," Mr. Allbaugh told UPI. "This is a great mechanism for Americans.

"The idea is that we would have 400,000 new trained volunteers over the next couple of years."

In an interview, Mr. Allbaugh for the first time laid out the scope of the program and the size of the volunteer corps. He said the role designated for his agency in Mr. Bush's 2003 security plan will virtually transform FEMA, doubling its budget to $6.5 billion and making it the go-to agency for helping state and local governments prepare for terrorist attacks and other emergencies.

Mr. Allbaugh also said his agency would absorb the Justice Department Office of National Preparedness.

This would be the largest federally led volunteer effort since the air raid wardens of World War II.

With the new directions ordered by Mr. Bush, "we have an opportunity to become the agency that FEMA can be," Mr. Allbaugh said at his office in Southwest Washington. "We can't miss this opportunity."

Under the Bush budget proposal outlined Monday, the agency would become the sole source of $3.5 billion in grants to state and local government "first responders" firefighters, police and emergency technicians and would oversee the establishment of a new army of citizen volunteers, designed after the Peace Corps and called the Citizen Corps.

Mr. Allbaugh for a decade has been one of the president's closest advisers, serving Mr. Bush as chief of staff when he was governor of Texas and as Mr. Bush's national campaign manager during the presidential campaign.

Mr. Bush has proposed increasing FEMA's budget by 114 percent. Most of that money comes in grants to state and local "first responders." Mr. Allbaugh said yesterday his agency will actually increase in size relatively little.

"I want to get that money out the door and on the street and not have it sucked up in government bureaucracy," Mr. Allbaugh said.

The current plan is to send $105 million to states for planning, $2 billion for equipment, $1.1 billion for training and $245 million on exercises to help get ready for disasters. The agency will try to move 75 percent to 85 percent of that money to states and local governments next fiscal year.

FEMA would train community leaders like fire officials and police officers on how to train other volunteers. Those leaders would, in turn, train other community volunteers in emergency medical care and other skills.

Mr. Allbaugh said that initially the agency will use its training facility in Emmitsburg, Md., and later may open training centers in other parts of the country.

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