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Feds tag $5 billion for state and local emergency preparedness

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Grants bonanza

Grants bonanza online. For a breakdown of homeland security and preparedness grants, go to http://www.washingtontechnology.com and type 223 in the Quickfind box. Information is available on grant programs from the
Homeland Security and Health and Human Services departments and the National Telecommunciations and Information
Administration.

As a result of a one-time infusion of federal
funds for national radio interoperability, the
flow of dollars for homeland security projects
in states and localities might
be peaking this year.

The grants are expected to
support hundreds of state and local initiatives,
such as buying geospatial software for situational
awareness in Missouri,
constructing a statewide
radio system in Colorado and
setting up a system in
Connecticut to track disaster
aid on the Internet.

Government contractors
are chasing about $5 billion
in opportunities related to
those federal grants, which
include $3 billion from the
Homeland Security
Department, $1 billion for
emergency preparedness
from the Health and Human
Services Department, and a
special, one-time $1 billion
allocation for public safety interoperability
from the National Telecommunications and
Information Administration (NTIA) in coordination
with DHS.

"Federal dollars are pouring into the states
in almost every category of homeland security,"
said Erin Phelps, director of enterprise services
and solutions at Ciber Inc., a systems integrator
in Denver. "There is a tremendous growth
opportunity."

Those dollars represent a windfall for state
and local governments at a time when many
local agencies are otherwise tightening their
belts. But it is uncertain how long such large
pools of money will be available.

Democrats support increasing local funding
for preparedness programs, and if they
increase their congressional
majorities in the November
elections, funding levels are
likely to remain high. But some foresee a
declining interest in homeland security spending
as the events of the 2001 terrorist attacks
recede further into the past.

"There is a sense that people are expecting
less funding," said Drew Sachs, vice president
of crisis and consequence management at
James Lee Witt Associates, a Washington consulting
firm.

COORDINATED EFFORT

DHS is the largest funding spigot, having
funneled billions of dollars to state and local
agencies since 2003 to help increase national
preparedness. A substantial portion of
those awards was spent on contractor goods
and services, including information technology
systems and services for surveillance, situational
awareness, communication, command
and control, intrusion detection, identification
management, resource tracking,
and credentialing.

This year, money will be channeled to
states and territories, urban areas, transit systems,
law enforcement agencies
and other entities. That
includes is $400 million for
security at ports, nearly double
what they received last
year.

But the $1 billion Public
Safety Interoperability
Communications grant fund
being made available to
states this year through
NTIA is getting the most
attention. Congress set up the
fund to pass along some of
the proceeds from the sale of
public radio spectrum in connection
with the move to digital
TV.

"The public safety interoperability funding
has had a huge impact on the level of activity
we have seen this year," said Tom Miller,
director of public safety global government
affairs at Motorola Inc. "We are seeing heightened
interest and excitement. It is a significant
increase in funding available for communications
projects."

State and local agencies are applying for
the public safety interoperability money in
coordination with statewide strategies. Miller said about 32 states have advanced plans for
statewide interoperable radio networks. The
rest are using bridging and gateway devices to
connect radio systems. "The focus is still on
voice, though some jurisdictions are also
doing data," he said.

Meanwhile, state and local agencies also
are creating proposals for spending the other
preparedness grants on equipment, training
and drills. And vendors are actively publicizing
their solutions.

"We are extremely interested in this market,"
said Mike Fox, senior vice president and
director of marketing and sales at SRA
International Inc., a solutions provider in
Fairfax, Va.

Fox said SRA is offering state and local
homeland grant recipients solutions that
include software for performing
vulnerability assessments on
critical infrastructure, geospatial
and dispatching software
for emergency operations and
fusion centers, and data-mining
software to help hospitals and
public health systems track diseases.

"On the one hand, people feel like whatever
they do, it is never enough." he said. "On
the other hand, technology lets you do more
with less." He added that there is cautious
overall optimism about homeland security
solutions.

Ciber executives see a multitude of opportunities
in offering enterprise-level, integrated
solutions for homeland security, primarily for
critical infrastructure such as ports and mass
transit systems, Phelps said. The company
also is working with regional organizations on
buffer zone protection that uses roadside
video near power plants and chemical plants.

In May, Ciber finished installing a $2.3 million
waterside perimeter protection system
for Port Freeport, Texas, that integrates solutions
for security, safety, and maritime
domain awareness and management into a
single command-and-control solution. The
system includes video surveillance, intrusion
detection, access control, intelligent radar
and large-vessel tracking. Ciber installed a
similar system at Port Lake Charles, La.,
using port security funding.

"For systems integrators, this market could
not be better," Phelps said.

REGIONAL APPROACH

For state officials, the largest trend in using
the homeland security grants is the move
toward greater regionalization and more centralized
strategies. Connecticut, for example,
has coordinated radio connections to a
statewide network and is distributing a software
tool to track disaster recovery resources,
said Wayne Sandford, the state's deputy commissioner
of emergency management and
homeland security.

"We are no longer providing funding to
municipalities. All of it is going to regions,"
Sandford said.

Regionalization is also a major focus in
Washington state, which is bringing together
state, local, federal and tribal authorities to
create an interoperable communications network
in the most rugged geographic region in
the northwest corner of the state, said Rob
Harper, a spokesman for the state's homeland
security agency.

Delaware is using its public safety interoperability
funding to back up its 800 Mhz
statewide radio system with a 700 Mhz system,
said Tom Steele, chief information officer at the
state's homeland security agency. The new system
will provide a larger pipeline and more
bandwidth for voice, video and data interoperability.

With funding potentially declining in
the future, he said, pursuing an all-hazards
approach to homeland security projects is
imperative to get the greatest benefit.

Colorado is proposing to spend $14.3 million
of its interoperability funds to move
toward completion of 80 percent of a
statewide digital trunked radio network, said
Maj. Gen. Mason Whitney, homeland security
coordinator for the state.

"We are in pretty good shape," Whitney
said. "We are trying to wean the local agencies
off the VHF radios, which are inexpensive,
and go to P-25 compatible equipment."

Project 25 was developed by the IT and
wireless communications industries to create
common criteria for new wireless public safety
communications devices and systems. The
goal was to enable the radios to communicate
seamlessly with one another regardless of
manufacturer.

In Missouri, officials are proposing to
spend $1.6 million from the grant pool to
expand the state's Emergency Resource
Information System, a portal providing situational
awareness, tracking and planning. IBM
Corp. is the prime contractor.

The system is operational and was used
during the recent floods in the state, said Paul
Fennewald, homeland security coordinator.

"We are using it for situational awareness," he
said. "It also allows the private sector to populate
the databases with the goods and services
available."

With so much money flowing in, it is not
surprising that vendors are busy making sales
calls, a trend likely to continue until the allocations
are fully committed.

"My phone rings endlessly with people
wanting to sell things for homeland security,"
Steele said. "With the public safety interoperability
money coming in, it has gotten almost
cutthroat. It also has gotten more competitive,
and that is always good."

Alice Lipowicz (alipowicz@1105govinfo.com) is a
staff writer at Washington Technology.

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