The National EAS test and recent CMAS testing have brought the spotlight on the FEMA Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) program from the public and Congress alike. On December 6, 2011, Representative Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) introduced H.R. 3563, the Integrated Public Alert Warning System Modernization Act of 2011. Also, recent statements from Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) indicate her plans to introduce legislation in the Senate soon.
While the path to enacting legislation is not yet certain and the exact language is by no means written in stone, this activity draws attention to the need for the IPAWS program to be formally authorized. Continue reading »
The mid-term elections have come and gone, however not much has changed in terms of the FY 2011 Federal appropriations outlook. Congress has passed another short-term continuing resolution (CR), keeping the lights on in the Federal government until December 18.
In terms of the path forward, the same three options are on the table.
- Congress could pass all appropriations bills, including DHS, in an “omnibus” appropriations bill.
- Congress could pass a “minibus” funding the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, while passing a long-term CR for other Federal agencies.
- Congress could pass a long-term CR for all agencies.
It is highly unlikely that Congress will pass another short-term CR given the results of the mid-term elections – Democrats will want to put their mark on appropriations legislation before either leaving power, or Washington altogether.
Looking ahead, regardless of how the FY 2011 appropriations process plays out, fiscal austerity will be the name of the game on Capitol Hill. Many experts are predicting a FY 2011 recession package as well as significantly reduced levels of funding in FY 2012 legislation.
We will be sure to keep you updated as the December 18 deadline approaches. Happy Holidays!
October brings changes across the country – leaves start to change colors, it gets a little cooler, playoff baseball starts, and a new federal fiscal year begins. However, the start to fiscal year 2011 (FY 2011) is going to look a lot like the end of FY 2010.
Earlier this Summer, I wrote that there were three potential options for Congress to address FY 2011 appropriations by October 1. It looks like number 2 is the winner:
“Congress completes none of the work and needs to pass a continuing resolution in order to keep the government funded at minimal levels (keep the lights on, etc.) until the appropriations bills can be passed.”
To date, Congress has not passed any of its 12 annual appropriations bills and is currently on recess until after the elections this November. Given the pending start of the fiscal year and no appropriations legislation to fund agencies, Congress was forced to pass a continuing resolution to fund the government through December 3. The bill was signed into law on September 30.
What does this mean? The continuing resolution will fund all Federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), at a level equivalent to FY2010, until December 3 or an appropriations bill is passed. This means FEMA, the IPAWS PMO, Customs and Border Protection, S&T the Coast Guard and all other DHS components we are familiar with will continue to operate much in the way they did in the previous fiscal year. However due to the way agencies are funded, large acquisitions or expenditures are more difficult to execute under a continuing resolution, so some plans will change and others will be put on the back-burner until an appropriations bill is passed. What the specific impact will be on individual programs remains to be seen since many issues are addressed on a case-by-case basis.
Looking forward, the final FY 2011 appropriations bill for DHS and other agencies will most likely be finalized in late November or early December. Then, Congress will return for a “lame duck” session and be able to finalize any appropriations issues before any shifts in party control potentially occur. The most likely scenario is that several (or all) the bills will be grouped together into larger “must pass” legislation.
We will continue to provide updates throughout the Fall.
Last month, the Federal Communications Commission held a public workshop on “21st Century Emergency Alerting,” which focused heavily on CMAS and IPAWS. For those who missed it, video of the event is available at: http://reboot.fcc.gov/video-archives.
Speakers at the event included James Arden Barnett, Jr., Rear Admiral (Ret.), Chief of the FCC’s Public Safety & Homeland Security Bureau (PSHSB) and Damon Penn, Assistant Administrator for FEMA’s National Continuity Programs Directorate. Other speakers, moderators and panelists included representatives from the FEMA IPAWS Office, Maryland Emergency Management Agency, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA), CTIA, NOAA, the National Association of Broadcasters, AT&T, DHS Science and Technology Directorate, Verizon, and Akami Technologies.
The workshop included some thought-provoking discussions around the upcoming National EAS test and adoption of the Common Alerting Protocol.
I know many AWARE readers were in attendance or viewed the workshop online. What did you think?
As Washington begins its summer in earnest, Congress is looking to complete (some would argue “start” is a more appropriate word given the pace of recent activity) its work funding Federal government for Fiscal Year 2011 (FY2011), which beings on October 1, 2010. The annual appropriations process can be the epitome of inside baseball when it comes to Washington – terms like “302b allocation,” “discretionary spending,” “mandatory spending,” “budget authority,” “budget outlay,” etc. can be as difficult to understand for those outside the beltway as an American trying to decipher a cricket rulebook. However, the outcome of this process – funding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and all other Federal agencies – is incredibly important to the alerts and warnings community, as well as all members of the homeland security enterprise. The following provides a summary of the current state of FY2011 appropriations.
The President requested $56.336 billion for DHS in FY2011. This represents approximately $1 billion more than the previous fiscal year. This funding is distributed across all DHS components including FEMA, the Science & Technology Directorate, ICE, CBP, and other agencies. Within FEMA is the National Continuity Programs Directorate (NCP), which houses the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) program. The request for IPAWS funding is $38.646 million, which is approximately $1.5 million more than the Office received in FY2010. This would fund the IPAWS Office’s procurements, staff, and activities for the coming fiscal year. In its request to Congress, FEMA highlighted the following as one of the major milestones it seeks to accomplish in FY2011: “Deploy initial operational capability of IPAWS Aggregator and Gateway supporting Commercial Mobile Alerting System [CMAS] Federal alert testing with cellular industry.” The FEMA IPAWS Office is not the sole office within DHS relevant to AWARE readers. The Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) conducts significant research, development, testing, evaluation, and standards work related to IPAWS as well as CMAS. The DHS appropriations bill will also shape how these research efforts progress.
Outside DHS, other areas of focus are the Department of Commerce and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). These Federal agencies play a key role in implementing the President’s National Broadband Plan (see http://www.broadband.gov/ for more details). How funding is potentially distributed to these agencies in order to advance the plan is of interest to the alerts & warnings community and can also signal where future Federal broadband investments are going to be made.
Given the billions in funding on the line for the next year – what is the status? According to Congress’s official budget rules, the current Congress is woefully behind (which is nothing new). Few appropriations bills have been debated (“marked-up” in DC-speak) in the relevant committees, let alone have moved to the House or Senate floor for votes. While on a calendar, it appears that Congress has plenty of time before the September 30th deadline, it is important to note that Congress will not be in Washington for the entire month of August.
Adding to the time pressure are the upcoming mid-term elections. Work in Congress will slow as each party will begin (or “continue,” depending on your views) posturing its work to “score points” with the American public at the expense of the opposition party. Typically, the more posturing, the less likely it is that consensus can be reached and progress made.
The second impact is that recent special elections, and the general tone of the nation, have indicated that reducing Federal spending is a key priority. Therefore, members of both parties are going to emphasize to their constituents how they are fiscally responsible and good stewards of taxpayer funds. This will result in increased pressure to reduce Federal spending this fiscal year. How this pressure will manifest appropriations legislation is difficult to predict, but it is clear that cuts will be made and funding increases will be few and far between.
In terms of the appropriations end-game, there are a few scenarios.
- Congress completes all appropriations bills (12 in total) and they are signed into law by September 30 – highly unlikely.
- Congress completes none of the work and needs to pass a continuing resolution in order to keep the government funded at minimal levels (keep the lights on, etc.) until the appropriations bills can be passed – more likely.
- Congress lumps its appropriations bills into one big bill (called an omnibus) or a handful of small bills (called minibuses) – the most likely scenario. While this funds the government, it limits the debate on individual issues since the overall bill becomes “must pass” for members of Congress.
As the summer continues, we’ll continue to watch the annual drama unfold. How do annual Federal appropriations impact you?