BALTIMORE – Gov. Martin O’Malley pledged on Thursday to streamline Maryland’s homeland security structure in response to a report assessing the state’s emergency preparedness.
Speaking at the Port of Baltimore, O’Malley said he will introduce legislation formalizing a direct line between himself and the director of the Maryland Emergency Management Agency, which is responsible for coordinating the state’s responses to major emergencies. The move is a key step toward addressing a recommendation that the state clarify its authority structure.
He also committed to remodeling the agency and the rest of the state’s emergency response structure to bring them into alignment with federal guidelines.
The report was conducted by James Lee Witt Associates, whose chief executive officer, James Lee Witt, is a former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
O’Malley, who committed to the report in his 2008 State of the State address, called the results “a tough, extensive assessment of both our strengths and weaknesses.”
Richard Muth, the director of the Maryland Emergency Management Agency, said the report provided some fresh insight and that the agency had enacted many recommendations already. “Every day it’s a moving target,” he said.
Department of Transportation Secretary John Porcari, Maryland State Police Colonel Terrence B. Sheridan and other state and federal officials also attended the press conference.
Other recommendations included increasing outreach to municipal and county governments, conducting an audit to verify resource allocation, and improving long-term strategic planning, which includes finding more stable sources of funding. The agency currently depends on federal grants, which vary from year to year.
The press conference was held at the Port of Baltimore, which, according to the governor’s office, recently received a near perfect score in a Coast Guard security compliance exam, a vast improvement from one year ago.
Witt commended the governor for his willingness to take an honest and straightforward look at the issue. As for the report, he said, “It’s not sugarcoated.”