House Republicans are attempting to live up to their pledge to cut $100 billion from the federal government’s current fiscal year 2011 budget. One of the proposed programs placed on the chopping block is the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Assistance to Firefighter Grant (AFG) program—a federal program that subsidizes the purchase of firefighting equipment and vehicles and fitness equipment by state and local governments. Compared to President Obama’s fiscal year 2011 budget request, the plan is to cut $310 million from the highly ineffective program that has inappropriately awarded grants to ACORN—an organization notorious for being associated with voting fraud.

The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis (CDA) collected data from 1999 to 2006 on 10,033 fire departments and, using regression analysis, estimated the impact of fire grants on fire casualties. The CDA evaluation found that AFG grants had no impact on fire casualties. Specifically, AFG grants used to purchase firefighting equipment and vehicles and fitness equipment failed to reduce firefighter deaths, firefighter injuries, civilian deaths, or civilian injuries. Despite billions in grants across the United States, the CDA report found that fire departments that did not received federal grants “were just as successful at preventing fire casualties as grant-funded fire departments.”

When Congress subsidizes local fire departments in this manner, it effectively reassigns to the federal government the powers and responsibilities that fall squarely within the expertise, historical control, and constitutional authority of state and local governments. The responsibility to provide fire protection and other basic emergency services belongs wholly to state and local governments, not the federal government.

The AFG program has an extensive track record of poor performance and should be eliminated.