Fiscal cliff keeps security industry guessing about funding for 2013

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

WASHINGTON—As 2012 draws to a close, security industry interests on Capitol Hill are focused squarely on a source of increasing financial anxiety: the fiscal cliff, and what a plunge off it on Jan. 1 might mean for companies and customers nationwide.

Marcus Dunn, director of government relations for the Security Industry Association, said the political stalemate over expiring tax cuts and mandated spending decreases has created uncertainty that is affecting SIA members. Appropriations hang in the balance, causing a ripple effect on planning.

“Many of our companies have federal contracts or contracts with state governments, contracts with local governments, pending projects and funding that could all be affected,” Dunn told Security Systems News on Dec. 12. “You can contrast it with having the FY 13 appropriations bills done—programs are going to be funded, you can go forward and bid on those projects. If you don’t have that blueprint, it makes it difficult to plan.”

With fiscal-cliff negotiations in limbo, SIA moved ahead on other fronts in December. It continued to pursue a waiver for ports that would free up funding for improvements through the Department of Homeland Security. The money has been held up by a provision requiring grant recipients to match 25 percent of the funding, something many ports haven’t been able to do because they’re still feeling the effects of the recession.

Dunn said talks were scheduled Dec. 13 with the bipartisan PORTS (Ports Opportunity, Renewal, Trade and Security) Caucus chaired by Rep. Janice Hahn, D-Calif., and Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas.

“We’re going in with member companies and the American Association of Port Authorities to get an idea of how [the caucus is] feeling about things,” Dunn said. “We’re just trying to gauge their appetite for dealing with this issue this year and to discuss strategies for handling it next year.”

Dunn said one of the issues SIA will be focusing on at the state level in 2013 is establishing policies and funding for carbon monoxide detectors in public schools.

“It’s an issue that we’ve pursued federally and to some extent at the state level,” he said. “Next year we will definitely start working on it through our state and local policy working group, which is chaired by John Steele of Tyco. We’ve sought [federal] funding that would be distributed to states to get standardized CO detectors.”

Dunn cited momentum for requiring CO detectors in schools, including a bill pending consideration in Georgia. He said he had some concern about the measure, however, because it would pertain to both public and private institutions.

“That’s an [unfunded] mandate for private schools,” he said. “Hopefully they’ll work out another way to deal with the private schools and incentivize them to do it instead of demanding they do it.”

Another focus for SIA in 2013 will be cooperative purchasing at the state level. Cooperative purchasing allows security equipment and services to be obtained through the federal General Services Administration, typically at a lower cost.

“We want to make sure the process is working as it should,” Dunn said. “We’ll be working on ways to expand it, to notify states and local governments of their ability to use the [GSA] schedule and to remind our members that they may have an opportunity to pitch it when providing goods and services.”