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House Passes Bill to Make it Easier for First Responders to Acquire New Technologies

The First Responder Access to Innovative Technologies Act (H.R. 5460), which require the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to develop a transparent process to review requests by first responders to use their Urban Area Security Initiative or State Homeland Security Grant Program funds to purchase equipment for which voluntary industry standards do not exist.

Introduced by Rep.Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10), ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications, the legislation would make it easier for first responders to acquire new equipment and technologies they need to respond to evolving threats.

“As the threats that first responders have to tackle continue to evolve, it is critical that they have the equipment necessary to respond,” Payne said in a statement announcing the House’s passage of the bill. “Many first responders, however, are unable to acquire advanced equipment because they are not permitted, by law, to use their homeland security grant funds to purchase it. This legislation will equip first responders with the tools needed to do their jobs better and safer by requiring FEMA to establish a clear, transparent process to review requests to purchase innovative technologies with homeland security grant funds.”

“Under current law,” Payne explained, “equipment purchased with Urban Area Security Initiative or State Homeland Security Grant Program funding is required to meet or exceed national voluntary consensus standards. Although FEMA does review grantee requests to purchase equipment that does not meet consensus standards, stakeholders have complained that the process lacks uniformity, predictability and transparency. Moreover, there is no process to review requests to purchase equipment for which no consensus standards exist, and the process for developing voluntary consensus standards for first responder equipment is slow and has not kept pace with the evolution of technology or the demands of first responders.”

Specifically, Payne added, “The First Responder Access to Innovative Technologies Act amends the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to direct FEMA to implement a uniform process for reviewing applications that contain explanations to use grants provided under the Urban Area Security Initiative or the State Homeland Security Grant Program to purchase equipment or systems that do not meet or exceed any applicable national voluntary consensus standards.”

The bill, which now goes to the Senate, was praised by House Speaker Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) office as a “commonsense step to help our first responders stay ahead of the curve when dealing with new threats.”

 

 

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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