Committee chairs air SAFETY concerns

Letter to DHS Secretary Tom Ridge

Landmark federal legislation designed to encourage companies to rapidly develop antiterrorism technologies and then shield them from liability hasn't attracted many takers and House lawmakers say red tape is to blame.

In 6-page letter dated May 11 to Secretary Tom Ridge of the Homeland Security Department, three House committee chairmen said they want departmental officials to streamline the process created by the Support Anti-terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies (SAFETY) Act of 2002.

The chairmen are concerned that the SAFETY Act has instead spurred "lengthy and bureaucratic reviews" of critical homeland security devices and services.

"To date, we understand that DHS has received disappointingly few SAFETY Act applications, and has yet to designate a single technology — even though some applications have been pending since late last fall," wrote Reps. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wisc.), who chairs the Judiciary Committee, Christopher Cox (R-Calif.), who heads the Homeland Security Select Committee, and Tom Davis (R-Va.), who chairs the Government Reform Committee.

The SAFETY Act was enacted to eliminate or reduce tort liability for companies that develop advanced technologies used in high-risk situations — for example, chemical and biological environmental sensors — should lawsuits arise after an act of terrorism.

Companies have their products designated and certified by DHS in a review process that was supposed to be "simple and straightforward — a means of facilitating transactions, not erecting additional barriers to deployment."

Staffers from the lawmakers and the department met several times to discuss how to advance implementation of the act. In the letter, the lawmakers outlined how DHS officials could expedite the process by prioritizing technologies for the most serious threats and during a heightened risk or current terrorism alert, among several other recommendations.

"Nobody wants developing technologies that can detect or prevent acts of terrorism involving biological, chemical, nuclear and other potentially devastating weapons to be stuck in the approval pipeline at [DHS] and not protecting the American public," said Sensenbrenner in a prepared statement.

Featured

  • Cybersecurity

    DHS floats 'collective defense' model for cybersecurity

    Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen wants her department to have a more direct role in defending the private sector and critical infrastructure entities from cyberthreats.

  • Defense
    Defense Secretary James Mattis testifies at an April 12 hearing of the House Armed Services Committee.

    Mattis: Cloud deal not tailored for Amazon

    On Capitol Hill, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis sought to quell "rumors" that the Pentagon's planned single-award cloud acquisition was designed with Amazon Web Services in mind.

  • Census
    shutterstock image

    2020 Census to include citizenship question

    The Department of Commerce is breaking with recent practice and restoring a question about respondent citizenship last used in 1950, despite being urged not to by former Census directors and outside experts.

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.