SIA urges industry to tell candidates that security matters

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

YARMOUTH, Maine—Summer is over, the political conventions are a memory and Congress is back in session. Pressure is building on Capitol Hill about how to fund the federal government through March 2013, with items of great interest to the security industry hanging in the balance.

At the top of the list is the Department of Homeland Security and how its needs will be addressed. Marcus Dunn, director of government relations for the Security Industry Association, cited concerns about funding levels for the Port Security Grant Program and the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace. SIA is also tracking potential legislative action on privacy, access control and how surveillance information is used.

The Nov. 6 elections loom as a hurdle for security funding and just about every other fiscal measure, with congressional members putting many of those debates on the back burner as they campaign in their home districts. That leaves a narrow window for action through the end of the year.

Dunn said that when Congress returned from summer recess on Sept. 10, the assumption among many on Capitol Hill was that a continuing resolution (CR) would be passed to get the federal government through the elections, then the “lame duck” Congress would pass an omnibus spending bill to fund the government for the remainder of fiscal year 2013.

“Depending on the election results, an omnibus bill—a very large spending package that combines funding for multiple agencies that usually get separate pieces of legislation—is still possible,” he told Security Systems News. “The CR [would increase] most funding by 0.6 percent, a small amount but still more than the flat spending that is typical for such measures.”

Dunn said lawmakers on the campaign trail must be reminded that “robust” investments in security are necessary for the welfare of communities.

“Remind them that it is important to update outdated equipment and systems,” he said. “Get their commitment to support security grants and other funding that benefits society as a whole. We know how critical these issues are, but [lawmakers] may not be as aware of their importance. How many times have you had to explain what you do to neighbors before they understand its importance? Our politicians are our neighbors, and they need the ‘elevator speech’ too.”

To help keep security professionals up to date on issues at home, SIA will release the third-quarter edition of its State Policy Digest at ISC East in New York on Oct. 30-31. This edition of the digest will feature interviews with state lawmakers working on industry-friendly legislation, Dunn said.

SIA will also use ISC East as the launch pad for the group’s newest publication, the Fiscal Year Informer. The biannual report will focus on federal and state funding for security-related products, systems and services.