Commerce Department touts public safety grant program

Commerce Department officials on Monday outlined how a federal grant program for public safety communications will be implemented.

The department's National Technology Information Administration, in consultation with the Homeland Security Department, has been tasked with allocating nearly $1 billion in grants to improve the ability of state and local public safety networks to communicate with each other across different jurisdictions. The grants will be awarded by the end of the year.

Congress has authorized NTIA, which advises the White House on telecommunications issues, to transfer roughly $960 million as part of the public safety interoperable communications grants program. The money will is being allocated for the general purpose of helping state, local and federal first responders communicate better during natural or man-made disasters.

The applications will be due one month after grant guidance is issued in July. Grants will be awarded in September. The money will be available to public safety agencies in all of the states and territories.

At a public meeting, Commerce Department Program Specialist Laura Pettus said draft guidelines are being finalized. She said the federal government is not going to dictate interoperability solutions to states and localities but that grant applicants will be required to address certain questions, such as how they intend to improve spectrum efficiency.

Pettus did not provide any advanced details about what the guidance may entail, though she did note that NTIA is planning to use Homeland Security's "risk-based" grant formula as a starting point. She also said NTIA is looking to direct no less than 80 percent of the grants to local public safety entities.

John Bunting, a regional inspector general for audits at the Commerce Department, advised the audience, which included officials from both the private and public sector, how to avoid auditing problems in drafting grant requests. He said the grant program is going to offer an important opportunity for public safety officials to improve their infrastructure.

"We have one time and one time only to get this right," he said.

Interoperability has been a buzz word on Capitol Hill since the 2001 terrorist attacks. The issue took center stage again in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina rocked the Gulf Coast region.

Funds for the interoperability grants are being borrowed from the anticipated auction of the 700 mhz spectrum that will be relinquished by television stations as they make the congressionally mandated switch to digital signals.

In an interview, Rocky Lopes, a homeland security project manager for the National Association of Counties, said he hopes federal officials recognize the importance of local first responders in emergencies as funds are allocated.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.