House Homeland Security Committee Democrats Make Grant Funding, Interoperability Recommendations

To commemorate the 16th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks, Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee today released a report analyzing implementation of recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. Among other things, the report recommends bolstering homeland security grant programs, providing new resources for interoperability communications, and protecting T-band spectrum.

“The terrorist threat environment is ever-evolving. The Federal government’s policies and programs aimed at protecting communities across the nation must evolve too,” said the report. “With respect to the homeland security grant programs, action on the following five recommendations will help ensure that these grants achieve the goals Congress envisioned in the 9/11 Commission Act: (1) Congress should significantly increase funding for the SHSGP [State Homeland Security Grant Program] and UASI [Urban Area Security Initiative] programs; (2) DHS should evaluate the risk formula and methodology used to allocate grant funds and, as appropriate, make modifications to ensure resources go where they are most needed; (3) Congress should enact legislation to create a competitive funding opportunity for former UASI jurisdictions to maintain capabilities achieved through the program; (4) Congress should authorize the Nonprofit Security Grant Program; and (5) DHS should enhance efforts to help State and local governments improve cybersecurity capabilities.”

Regarding interoperability, the report said that “Congress must provide new resources to States to support interoperability efforts and help ensure that the critical work that SWICs [statewide interoperability coordinators] perform and governance structures that facilitate interoperability continue.”

The report noted that “Section 301 of the 9/11 Commission Act directed the Department to address …  interoperability challenges at the State level by creating a grant program, the Interoperable Emergency Communications Grant Program (IECGP), and conditioned grant funding on compliance with State-specific governance plans (Statewide Communications Interoperability Plans) and the National Emergency Communications plan. … Between FY08 through FY11, Congress appropriated $50 million annually to IECGP, but under the Republican-controlled Congress, funding for the program was eliminated in FY12.”

The report also said that “Congress should act to ensure that major jurisdictions that rely upon the T-Band radio spectrum for mission critical voice capabilities—Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Washington, DC—continue to have access to it until capabilities are available on the Public Safety Broadband Network.”

The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 required the FCC to reallocate and auction public safety spectrum in the T-band by 2021 and relocate incumbents by 2023. Proceeds from the auction can be used to cover the relocation costs of public safety licensees. But the law doesn’t say anything about relocating non-public safety licensees. The T-band encompasses TV channels 14-20 (470-512 megahertz). —Paul Kirby,

Courtesy TRDaily