'Doomsday' averted, but security industry still wary of sequestration

 - 
Wednesday, March 20, 2013

WASHINGTON—Sequestration hit on March 1 with more of a whimper than a bang, but the uncertainty it has caused continues to affect security companies that count on federal funding for initiatives in the field.

As the mandatory budget cuts are phased in this year, anxiety is likely to rise when it comes to planning for contracts and expenditures, said Marcus Dunn, director of government relations for the Security Industry Association. Through March, however, the impact hadn’t been as painful as some had predicted.

“When you look at the overall budget number and the amount of cuts this year, [sequestration] isn’t as significant as the White House and even the leaders in the House were making it out to be,” Dunn told Security Systems News. “Everybody’s kind of backed down from the doomsday predictions. But that doesn’t mean it’s not going to be rough. We’re in uncharted territory.”

Dunn said SIA received a few calls before March 1 from security companies that said contracts had stalled. A larger number of firms indicated that they were growing frustrated with the process as government agencies tried to gauge the effect of the impending cuts.

“It’s a process that’s been kind of happening for the past couple of years, all of this uncertainty [about the federal budget],” he said. “The mood around here, no matter what business you’re in, is this has got to stop.”

The uncertainty has affected planning for SIA’s Government Summit here on June 4 and 5 by cutting into the list of potential panelists, Dunn said.

“We’ve had confirmations but we’ve also had pushback from other folks who cite the sequestration for not letting them out of the office,” he said. “For some of these people, we’re not even asking them to travel—they just have to come across town. So when you talk about the effects, some agencies are saying nobody is going anywhere. It makes it difficult for all of us to operate in this space.”

In other security news from Capitol Hill, SIA worked with Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., on a bill that Boxer introduced to better protect the nation’s schools. The legislation, S. 146, would provide $40 million annually for communities and schools to install surveillance cameras, access control systems and other life safety products.

In a letter to Boxer on Feb. 26 from SIA Chief Executive Officer Don Erickson, SIA supported the legislation and welcomed “the opportunity to share best practices about the use of security technology in schools.”

“Sen. Boxer’s office was happy to see us and work with us,” Dunn said.

The bill was approved March 12 by the Senate Judiciary Committee and sent to the full Senate.