House moves to streamline Safety Act application process

Senior members of the House Homeland Security Committee on Jan. 19 introduced legislation to streamline implementation of Safety Act liability protections for anti-terrorism technologies.

Reps. James R. Langevin, D-R.I., who chairs the subcommittee on emerging threats, cybersecurity, science and technology, and Mike Rogers, R-Ala., ranking member of the management and investigations subcommittee, said they submitted a reform bill to speed the handling of applications for federal contractors seeking protection under the "Support for Anti-terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies Act " (Safety Act) of 2002.

When Congress created the Homeland Security Department in 2002, lawmakers added the Safety Act provisions to protect manufacturers from the huge financial liabilities that could result from an act of terrorism. The idea was to motivate contractors to provide new counterterrorism equipment, services and software and devices to the government by mitigating the threat of liability if their technologies or products failed because of a terrorist attack.

To date, 76 certifications and 25 designations have been granted to anti-terrorism products, including IT products, under the Safety Act. The pace of awards has quickened, with 38 certifications awarded in 2006, 35 in 2005 and three in 2004.

Sponsors of the reform legislation said the Safety Act program, while successful, has experienced significant delays and backlogs. The bill ensures that sufficient personnel and resources are devoted to implementation. Original co-sponsors include Reps. Bennie G. Thompson, D-Miss., committee chairman; Peter King, R-N.Y., committee ranking member; Christopher Carney, D-Penn., management subcommittee chairman; and Michael McCaul, R-Texas, emergency threats subcommittee ranking member.

"The Safety Act marked a good starting place for the government to begin encouraging the development of advanced technologies to help keep our nation safe. However there is now an obvious need for improvement," Langevin said in a news release. "With passage of this legislation, I am optimistic we will be able to streamline the application process and encourage participation in this program across all levels of government and the private sector."

Recent Safety Act approved products include Accenture LLP's virtual border management support services for the U.S. Visitor and Immigration Status Indicator Technology program; Northrop Grumman Information Technology Inc.'s integrated security services, which are a suite of services for the design, implementation and testing of systems for information security, surveillance, perimeter intrusion detection, vehicle access control and other purposes; and Boeing Co.'s technology evaluation and design services for cargo container inspection facilities, which provide requirements and solutions for sensors and components to be used in inspecting the cargo.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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