Payne, Jr. Introduces Bill Making it Easier for First Responders to Acquire New Technologies

Jan 26, 2017 Issues: National Security

Washington, D.C. – This week, Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10), a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, reintroduced legislation to make it easier for first responders to acquire new equipment and technologies they need 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.

“As the threats that first responders have to tackle continue to evolve, it is critical that they have the equipment necessary to respond,” said Congressman Payne, Jr. “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, 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, the First Responder Access to Innovative Technologies Act of 2017 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.

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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