Senators sponsor homeland security grant bill

Two senators introduced bipartisan legislation last week to establish an intergovernmental grant program to develop or modify homeland security equipment, technologies, capabilities and services.

The bill (S. 2635), introduced by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), would require Homeland Security Department officials to conduct a needs assessment of federal, state and local governments and then survey existing products or services within the United States or other countries, such as Israel, focused on homeland security.

Grants would fund joint ventures among businesses, academic institutions or nonprofit groups and other entities that have demonstrated counterterrorism or homeland security capabilities. The bill authorizes $25 million for fiscal 2005.

"This program will act as a revolving fund to develop new homeland security technologies," Collins said in a statement introducing the bill. "As these technologies are deployed and become profitable, the businesses that developed them will be required to repay the program for the amount of the funds. This requirement, which has worked for similar existing programs, will help sustain the availability of funds for future funds."

She also said the legislation, which has been referred to the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, builds on other international public/private partnerships. The Maine senator cited the Israel-U.S. Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation, which has invested $180 million during 27 years in hundreds of projects between American and Israeli businesses.

"Similar partnerships also exist in the development of agricultural, defense, telecommunications and other technologies," Collins said in her statement. "This record demonstrates the potential of a similar binational foundation in the area of homeland security."

Earlier this year, two House representatives introduced a bill (HR 3871) earmarking $25 million for research and development of new homeland security technologies conducted jointly by American and Israeli companies.

In other news, Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) recently introduced a bill (HR 4810) that would require that 50 percent of certain DHS grants earmarked for first responders go directly to local entities.

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