Border security looms large for SIA

Whether the House warms to the Senate immigration bill or quashes it, border security stands to be part of any reform package
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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

WASHINGTON—Weeks into the legislative lull of August, the Security Industry Association is gearing up for Congress to return to session in September, when lawmakers in the House will tackle immigration reform.

The association’s approach remains less ideological than informational, Marcus Dunn, director of government relations for SIA, told Security Systems News. The focus is fixed squarely on border security, which is likely to be a major component of any immigration legislation, whether the House rallies around the Senate bill or dismantles it.

“We’re going to be on the Hill a little more than we have been in the past on this issue, just so we make sure members [of Congress] are aware of the solutions the industry has to offer on this important issue,” Dunn said.

SIA’s informational efforts will revolve around three major technological pieces of border security: video surveillance, access control and biometrics. Dunn said it’s important to make members of Congress aware that a number of companies integrate these services, while others develop software, such as intelligent video analytics, that could have important border security applications.

Other technological examples abound when it comes to the intersection of the security industry and immigration reform. Dunn mentioned that there are surveillance cameras that can see in “practically zero light” and are built to “withstand the heat of the border desert” that could serve as strong examples of how well-suited some of the technology is for the unforgiving climate of the Southwestern frontier.

“It’s to let people know the capabilities that are out there, and to ensure that we’re still part of the conversation,” Dunn said. He added: “We try to break it down to a certain technology that’s out there.”

Outside the sphere of immigration reform, some other legislative issues with industry significance are about to come to a head—at least for companies who contract with the government. A pair of bipartisan bills—The Commonsense Construction Contracting Act of 2013; and the Design Build Efficiency and Jobs Act—were introduced July 19 in the House of Representatives.

Both bills are designed to level the playing field between smaller contractors and their larger competitors. Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., who introduced the Design Build Efficiency and Jobs Act, fashioned the bill with an eye to implementing a new two-phase process for design-build contract bids.

“If the bid and proposal process can be streamlined to make it more efficient and cheaper for all involved, without sacrificing quality, we should do it,” Graves, chairman of the House Small Business Committee, said in a statement.

According to a report from Law 360, which examined both bills, Graves’ subcommittee found that the cost of bidding in a single-phase procurement process can cost more than three percent of the contract’s value, thus blocking smaller contractors from even entering the bid. Graves’ bill would implement a first phase involving a relatively inexpensive technical assessment that would allow the five most qualified companies to advance to the second phase.

The Commonsense Construction Contracting Act of 2013, spearheaded by Rep. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., proposes the banning of reverse auctions, which allow bidders to offer multiple bids, for contracts worth $750,000 or greater.

This bill could put an end to the practice of contractors submitting “lowball bids,” Dunn said, which can compel some companies to submit bids that make certain projects nearly impossible to execute.