DHS Appropriations Act; OEC Analyzes Effects on OEC Stakeholders

On March 4, the President signed the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2015, which provides funding to the Department through the end of the fiscal year (September 30, 2015). Below is a high-level analysis of provisions in the law that affect DHS grants, and may impact OEC stakeholders.

DHS Grants Observations

Congress maintained the status quo on grant funding. The same grants that were funded in FY 2014 are funded at approximately the same levels in this bill (~ $2.3B)

  • State Homeland Security Program (SHSP) – $467M § With a $55M set-aside for Operation Stonegarden (OPSG)
  • Urban Area Strategic Initiative (UASI) – $600M § With a $13M set-aside for Non-profit Security Grant Program (NSGP)
  • Transit Security Grant program (TSGP) – $100M § With a $10M set-aside for Amtrak, and
  • With a new $3M set-aside for Over-the-Road Bus Security
  • Port Security Grant Program (PSGP) – $100M
  • Assistance to Firefighters (AFG) – $680M
  • Emergency Management Performance Grant (EMPG) – $350M

Congress did not support the consolidation of grants. In the FY 2015 President’s Budget, the Administration requested funding for the National Preparedness Grant Program (NPGP) – the program consolidates the separate FEMA grants (SHSP, UASI, TSGP, PSGP) into one big grant program (NPGP). Congress did not support this program in the previous three years that it was presented, and did not support the consolidation in FY 2015.

Previous set-aside for National Security Special Event (NSSE) out; set-aside for Amtrak in. The President’s Budget did not set aside specific funding for the NSSE or Amtrak in FY 2015; both were zeroed out in the President’s Budget. The House did not set aside funding for NSSE, but did maintain the $10M set-aside for Amtrak; the final bill reflected the House levels – no funding for NSSE, $10M for Amtrak.

One new set-aside was created. A $3M set-aside was created for the Over-the-Road Bus Security.

Congress expects FEMA to limit UASI funding to highest risk areas. In Explanatory Statement: “FEMA shall conduct risk assessments for the 100 most populous metropolitan areas prior to making [UASI] grant awards. Because most of the cumulative national terrorism risk to urban areas is focused on a relatively small number of cities, it is expected that UASI funding will be limited to urban areas representing up to 85 percent of such risk and that resources [will be allocated in proportion to risk].”

Both houses instruct DHS to push the use of multi-band radios through state/local grants: “The [House] Committee specifically notes the findings of the Department’s 2012 Multi-Band Radio Pilot Assessment that: (a) multi-band radios are a valuable tool in bridging the communications interoperability gap between local, state, and federal agencies regardless of the radio band in use; (b) multiple manufacturers offer dual-band and multi-band radios; and (c) the cost of a multi-band radio is now comparable to the cost of a similar high end, single-band radio. The Committee directs DHS, within 120 days after the date of enactment of this Act, to brief the Committee on the steps it will take to: (a) transition DHS component agencies to multi-band LMRs in future procurements unless their mission does not require full local, state, and federal interoperability; (b) issue guidance to non-DHS federal law enforcement agencies on transitioning to multi-band LMRs, as appropriate; and (c) issue guidance for DHS grant programs that support state and local interoperable communications to make interoperability an important criterion for grant-funded LMR procurements.

The Senate directs OEC to work with FEMA to ensure that applicable Department FY 2015 guidance for first responder communications grant programs includes appropriate guidance based on factors including effectiveness, risk, and affordability for newer capabilities as they come online, such as multi-band land mobile radios and terminals.

The Act adds an eligible cost under the SHSP and UASI grant programs. The Act states that “grants awarded to States along the Southwest Border of the United States under sections 2003 or 2004 of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (6 U.S.C. 604 and 605) using [SHSP and UASI] funds may be used by recipients or sub-recipients for costs, or reimbursement of costs, related to providing humanitarian relief to unaccompanied alien children and alien adults accompanied by an alien minor where they are encountered after entering the United States, provided that such costs were incurred during the award period of performance.”

The House supports P25 efforts: the House report states that, when applicable, “federal funding for first responder communications equipment should be compliant with common system standards for digital public safety radio communications (Project 25 standards) to ensure interoperability. S&T, in conjunction with the Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, shall continue assessing the compliance of first responder communications equipment with Project 25 standards.”

Grant Timelines: Grants will be released within 60 days from enactment (~ May), grants will be due 80 days after release (~ August), grants will be awarded within 65 days of submission (~ late September).

OEC will continue to keep stakeholders advised of grant release, and recommends that stakeholders continue to check the FEMA grant site: https://www.fema.gov/grants.