National League of Cities leads funding charge

The National League of Cities is calling on Congress to create a permanent public interest trust fund that would support grants to promote state and local interoperability among first responders, the group announced this week.

The interoperability trust fund would be built with proceeds from the auction of spectrum licenses to public airways, the group said.

Joining the league in its request were the National Association of Counties and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

The recommendation is part of an urgent appeal by 18 national associations to get Congress and the Bush administration to take swift action to improve public safety communications in the homeland security atmosphere.

President Bush's fiscal 2003 and 2004 budgets contain about $7 billion for first responders, but the public safety community has not received the $3.5 billion earmarked for first responders in fiscal 2003 because the budget has not been approved by Congress.

The request for the trust fund coincides with the release of a final report on public safety communications and interoperability by the National Taskforce on Interoperability.

During a terrorist attack or local catastrophe, most police, fire and emergency medical personnel lack the capability to quickly and directly share information with each other, according to the report.

The task force's report addresses recommendations on spectrum needs, funding and cooperation among all levels of government.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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