SIA eyes federal budget resolution

Sequestration could be a factor in determining funding for major security grant programs
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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

WASHINGTON—The crisis in Syria only further roils what was already expected to be a turbulent few months in Congress leading up to the holidays. Despite the din, the Security Industry Association has developed a plan to advance some of its own objectives, of which there are many.

In the forefront is the resolution on the federal budget, Don Erickson, CEO of SIA, told Security Systems News. SIA will track the resolution closely to determine what funding levels end users can expect to see. The association’s scope will be fixed especially on the port security grant program and the transit security grant program, both of which are administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

These grants, Erickson says, carry major implications for security installers. “Each of these programs is used by end users for a variety of purposes, including installation of access control systems, video surveillance, biometric devices, [and] card readers,” he said. “It’s a very key source of financing for customers to use to make investments on security solutions and protect their facilities.”

In a similar vein, the SIA will be eying the continued effects of sequestration on these programs, and trying to calculate how much more, if at all, the programs could be reduced. “I don’t think they’ll be increased, so we just want to ensure we have an adequate level of funding for these programs,” Erickson said.

Traditionally, these programs were funded independently, with the funds having separate appropriation “buckets” determined by the federal budget. This is not the case anymore. Congress now allocates a lump sum to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), of which FEMA is an agency, and the funds are then meted out to various programs from there, Erickson said.

This change in particular has drastically altered the way funds are disbursed, and, according to Erickson, not for the better.

“It doesn’t provide the predictability for the end user, for the port operator in this case, or the school or transit system,” he says. “We’d like to see funds allocated independently, or in separate streams.”

Meanwhile, SIA has immigration reform, but more specifically border control, on its radar. H.R. 1417, a piece of legislation introduced in April by Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, dovetails with many of SIA’s objectives, Erickson said, including the push to improve DHS oversight with respect to border security, and the need to develop clearly defined strategies for research and development initiatives.

The legislation, currently with 20 co-sponsors, could have a lot of bearing on video surveillance suppliers and integrators, Erickson said. It will allow government contractors a little more insight into the scale of projects they might be expected to undertake. If enacted down the road, the bill could help suppliers and integrators get a better idea of “where the agency may apply its money,” Erickson said. “It just provides a little more transparency, and a little more direction.”