SCHUMER REVEALS: WEST POINT FIRE DEPARTMENT HAS LOST OUT ON MILLIONS IN DESPERATELY-NEEDED FUNDING BECAUSE OF ARMY HQ BUDGET SHORTFALLS- IN 2021, WEST POINT RECEIVED A MASSIVE 92% CUT FROM PREVIOUS YEARS – PUTTING SAFETY OF FIREFIGHTERS AND COMMUNITY AT RISK; SCHUMER LAUNCHES ALL OUT PUSH TO GET WEST POINT FIREFIGHTERS FUNDING THEY DESERVE THIS YEAR TO KEEP 6,500+ MILITARY FAMILIES AND SURROUNDING ORANGE COUNTY COMMUNITIES SAFE
The West Point Fire Department Uniquely Depends On Fed Funding Through Army HQ, Since They Are Fed Employees Serving USMA & Surrounding Communities – Meaning Recent Shortfalls In Army Budget Have Resulted In Major Hits To Operations
In 2021, West Point Requested $1.76 Million To Help Its Fire And Emergency Services – But Barely Received $100K; A Reduction Of 92% In Non-Pay Budget Compared To Previous Years, Resulting In Emergency Equipment Becoming Outdated And Failing Inspection
Senator Is Sounding The Fire Alarm On This Growing Problem And Launches Major Push To Get West Point First Responders Over $1.2 Million In Desperately Needed Funding In FY23 Via The Recently Passed Omnibus Appropriations Bill
Schumer: Army Needs To Provide West Point’s Courageous Firefighters & First Responders The Tools Needed To Protect Lives of Military And Orange County Families
Standing shoulder to shoulder with West Point firefighters at the United States Military Academy (USMA) in West Point, New York, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer today launched a major push to get the West Point Fire Department (WPFD) over $1.2 million in funding that it desperately needs – through the recently passed federal omnibus appropriations bill.
The senator said that this push follows years of massive budget shortfalls for WPFD, including a 92% reduction last year that hampered operations and its ability to repair and replace outdated emergency response equipment. Schumer explained that, as a federal fire department serving the USMA and its surrounding communities, WPFD uniquely depends on federal funding through U.S. Army Installation Management Command (IMCOM) for its yearly budget, creating a different funding structure than other nearby local fire professional and volunteer departments.
“Unfortunately, in recent years, these budget shortfalls have left the 40-person department - serving over 6,500 military families and thousands more in surrounding communities -without the tools needed to best respond to over 800 emergencies a year,” said Schumer.
Following his work on this year’s federal budget, Schumer is sounding the alarm by calling on the Secretary of the Army to send over $1.2 million to WPFD so it can finally update its equipment, address these shortfalls, and continue its lifesaving work in keeping our Hudson Valley communities safe.
“Whenever there’s an emergency here at the United States Military academy or its surrounding communities, our brave West Point firefighters are the first to respond. Without hesitation, they run into burning buildings, selflessly putting their lives on the line every single day to protect our 6,500 service members and their families as well as the hundreds of thousands more who live, work, or commute nearby the base. These heroes do this because it’s their duty, and we can’t let them go any longer without the top-notch equipment and resources they need and deserve,” said Senator Schumer. “That’s why when I found out that last year these firefighters didn’t get 90% of what they asked for from Army HQ, I made it my duty to fix this problem, and am now asking the Army’s top brass to use the federal funding I secured for the DoD – in the recently passed omnibus appropriations bill – to make sure these budget shortfalls stop now. We must give our West Point firefighters the resources they need and deserve to protect our service members who protect our nation.”
Schumer explained fire departments often face budget shortfalls and extremely high costs that mean they cannot purchase the modern equipment they need to combat emergencies to keep firefighters safe, a modern hose fire truck can cost well over $500,000. The West Point Fire Department and others IMCOM fire departments like it are unique in that they depend on federal funding through the Army for their budget, as opposed to having access to funds through local municipal governments. In the past two years, due to significant non-pay funding shortfalls at US Army IMCOM, several of WPFD’s emergency apparatus have failed inspection and have been unable to be repaired or replaced, including but not limited to thermal imaging cameras, breathing air cylinders, structural gear, and refrigerators.
Schumer said last year West Point requested $1.76 million in its Management Decision Package (MDEP) for the fire and emergency services, which was validated by IMCOM. However, due to a $44.6 million non-pay shortfall across the entire program, USAG West Point only received $90,000 (5.1%) of the validated $1.76 million request. Although USAG West Point was able to reallocate $31,400 from a different account to help fund its emergency services requirements, this is still far below the funding level that WPFD needs to serve the West Point community and represents a 92% reduction in non-pay budget since 2014.
The senator wrote the Secretary of the Army personally to highlight this issue and said he is pushing for the WPFD to receive the full request it desperately needs of $1.23 million for fire and emergency services. This would allow West Point firefighters to receive the equipment and resources they desperately need such as PPE, fuel, ladders, breathing apparatus, and vehicle repairs. Schumer also said he is asking the Army to address how the funding shortfalls over the last few years have impacted fire departments like West Point and potentially at the other 78 IMCOM garrisons and how the Army can avoid this issue moving forward to ensure these firefighters which protect both our military families and surrounding communities can get the support they need.
A copy of Schumer’s letter to Army Secretary Christine Wormuth appears below:
Dear Secretary Wormuth:
I write to request your immediate attention and assistance to ensure the West Point Fire Department (WPFD) receives its full funding authorization and is sufficiently equipped with emergency response equipment. In the past two years, due to significant non-pay funding shortfalls at US Army Installation Management Command (IMCOM), several of WPFD’s emergency apparatus have failed inspection and have been unable to be repaired or replaced, including but not limited to thermal imaging cameras, breathing air cylinders, structural gear, and refrigerators.
In Fiscal Year (FY) 2022, US Army Garrison (USAG) West Point requested $1.76 million in its Management Decision Package (MDEP) for the fire and emergency services, which was validated by IMCOM. However, due to a $44.6 million non-pay shortfall across the entire program, USAG West Point only received $90,000 of the validated $1.76 million request. Although USAG West Point was able to reallocate $31,400 from a different account to help fund its emergency services requirements, this is still far below the funding level that WPFD needs to serve the West Point community.
This funding issue has put a serious strain on WPFD’s resources, which protects nearly 6,500 service members and their families as well as tens of thousands more in the surrounding communities. It is imperative that we provide our firefighters with the resources they need to protect the service members who protect our nation.
USAG West Point requested $1.235 million for fire and emergency services in its MDEP for FY23. This funding will be essential in boosting firefighter safety and mission success, and conducting equipment repairs and replacements that should have been completed in FY22. Considering the challenges imposed by the funding shortfall in FY22 and the current state of WPFD’s equipment, I urge you to support and fully execute USAG West Point’s FY23 MDEP funding request. I also ask that you consider how the funding shortfalls over the last few years have impacted fire departments at the other 78 IMCOM garrisons and how the Army can avoid this issue moving forward.
Thank you for your consideration of this request and your commitment to the safety and wellbeing of our service members. Please do not hesitate to reach out to my office with any questions.