Security and the shutdown
WASHINGTON—There’s no doubt that the government shutdown has affected the security industry and the best outcome at this juncture would be a long-term continuing resolution, Don Erickson, CEO of the Security Industry Association told Security Systems News.
“The sooner the deal, the better,” he said. “Hopefully it’s not done incrementally, but through the fiscal year with funding levels consistent with last year.”
“Through the fiscal year” is the critical phrase. That, Erickson noted, is the only way government contractors get any kind of predictability about what funding levels are available from federal grant programs.
On the other hand, a protracted budget debate or a short-term continuing resolution (CR) make can make for a very unfavorable business climate. “It can slow down the awards of contracts, and some agencies can’t make commitments beyond certain periods of time,” Erickson said. Short-term budget resolutions also have adverse effects on “ports and schools and other components of critical infrastructure that rely on federal financial assistances through grants,” he said.
A short-term CR also can cause long delays before grant funding is made available, Erickson added, or create a very short window to apply for any funds remaining from fiscal year 2013.
With the government closed, funding has been frozen for more recent projects, though that’s not the case for projects that started under previous budgets. Erickson said part of SIA’s mission right now is mitigating the damage on integrators who have ongoing projects. “I think the issue is just the maintenance of current agreements and current projects,” he said.
For the time being, a major objective is “fostering predictability,” according to Erickson, who remains a realist about what kind of funding levels Department of Homeland Security grant programs can expect. “We’ve always advocated for increases here and there, but we’ve got to be realistic, and we understand the climate,” he said. “But it’s important that we not go back and have significant reductions in funding.”
The closure of the government has altered SIA’s near-term priorities, Erickson said. Matters such as border security and school safety, which months ago looked to command huge attention leading up to the holidays, are now overshadowed by great uncertainty surrounding the budget.
“The best way to classify it is just a complete stalemate between the parties,” Erickson said.
When the government eventually reopens and the budget disagreements are resolved, Erickson expects issues dealing with border security and school security to “heat back up.” One piece of legislation that may come under focus may be H.R. 3158, SAFE in Our Schools Act, a bill introduced in September by Rep. Donald Payne Jr., D-N.J.
The legislation would require that K-12 schools develop detailed emergency response plans as a condition for receiving federal grant funding. Erickson says it’s good policy in general, but that lawmakers should look to the industry to help enhance the bill’s effectiveness.
“What we’re saying is that there are some existing technologies in the security industry, from carbon monoxide detectors, or basic access control and door locks, that can probably be helpful in securing locations prior to a disaster, or securing supplies or valuables or people after a disaster,” Erickson said. “We’re thinking about how to strengthen this bill and empower K-12 schools to have access to certain life safety and security products and services that would help them in the event of a disaster.”