House Passes Payne, Jr.’s First Responder Access to Innovative Technologies Act

Jan 31, 2017 Issues: National Security

Washington, D.C. – This afternoon, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation introduced by Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10), a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, to make it easier for first responders to acquire new equipment and technologies needed to respond to evolving threats.

The bill, H.R. 687, the First Responder Access to Innovative Technologies Act of 2017, requires 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.

“In order to keep our communities safe, equipment for first responders must keep pace with the evolving threats those first responders face,” said Congressman Payne, Jr. “So it’s extremely dangerous that many first responders are unable to acquire advanced equipment because of restrictions on the use of homeland security grant funds. This bill makes sure that first responders have the right tools to do their jobs safely and effectively.”

Under current law, 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. 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.

Congressman Payne, Jr. first introduced the First Responder Access to Innovative Technologies Act in 2016. That bill, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives, was praised by House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office as a “commonsense step to help our first responders stay ahead of the curve when dealing with new threats.”

A PDF version of the legislation can be found HERE.

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