CPSC 'No Longer Functioning,' Top Fire Marshal Testifies

John C. Dean, president of the National Association of State Fire Marshals, told a U.S. Senate subcommittee March 21 that the Consumer Product Safety Commission is "in critical condition" and "no longer functioning." Dean asked members of the Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Affairs, Insurance, and Automotive Safety to ask appropriations colleagues to seriously consider higher funding for CPSC -- $75 million for FY2008 rather than its proposed $63 million request, Dean recommended.

The hearing was an oversight hearing for CPSC. Dean testified that the agency's budget has not kept up with inflation, veteran staffers with long experience have departed, and a lack of quorum "has contributed to paralysis on many issues." Dean also recommended that Congress commission a Government Accountability Office "head-to-toe examination" of CPSC to determine how it can best fulfill its mission and return to the relevance and viability it enjoyed during its early days. He said CPSC has about 400 full-time employees and the equivalent of 21 cents per U.S. resident in its budget to prevent $700 billion annually in losses from incidents involving consumer products that are under its jurisdiction.

He said a GAO study could answer whether CPSC should shift from its current structure to an agency with a single administrator, how well other government agencies are supporting its mission, and what Dean called "the basic question: should there even be a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, or should we rely entirely on litigation to address the $700 billion in losses from incidents involving consumer products.

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