CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Wednesday, September 21, 2016, the House will consider H.R. 5460, the First Responder Access to Innovative Technologies Act, under suspension of the rules. H.R. 5460 was introduced on June 13, 2016, by Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D-NJ) and was referred to the Committee on Homeland Security, which ordered the bill reported, as amended, by voice vote on September 13, 2016.
H.R. 5460 directs the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to develop a uniform process for reviewing grant applications seeking to purchase equipment or systems that do not meet or exceed applicable national voluntary consensus standards using funds from the Urban Area Security Initiative or the State Homeland Security Grant Program. Specifically, FEMA must consider: the current or past use of the equipment or systems by the military; the absence of a national voluntary consensus standard; the existence of an international consensus standard; the nature of a capability gap and how the equipment or system will fill that gap; and any other factors determined appropriate by the Administrator.
Further, the legislation directs the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security to submit a report to the House Committee on Homeland Security and the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs assessing the implementation of the review process.
In 2004, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) adopted a directive providing general guidance and instructions for the adoption, review, and revision of DHS National Standards. The directive recognized the need for DHS to set appropriate and effective standards: for chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive equipment; to ensure the security of U.S. national borders and infrastructures, and; establish standards related to equipment and procedures for the nation’s first responders. At the time, the Department recognized that the lack of uniform, effective standards led to inferior equipment being purchased, incompatibility among equipment, and a lack of effectiveness and efficiency in activities designed to ensure the security of the United States.
As the threat environment continues to change, the private sector and government are continuously working to develop innovative technology. According to the Committee, the development of voluntary consensus standards has not always kept pace with innovation.
The Homeland Security Act of 2002 requires applications for State Homeland Security Grant Program and Urban Area Security Initiative funds to include an explanation if a grant applicant proposes to purchase or upgrade equipment that does not meet or exceed applicable national voluntary consensus standards. Currently, FEMA does not have a uniform review process for these kinds of applications, nor do they have a mechanism to consider applications for equipment for which no voluntary consensus standards exists.
According to the bill’s sponsor, “As the threats that first responders have to tackle continue to evolve, it is critical that they have the equipment necessary to respond. This bipartisan solution enables first responders to acquire the advanced equipment they need to keep pace with the demands of their job.”
A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate is not currently available.
For questions or further information please contact Jake Vreeburg with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 5-0190.