Nadler: New and improved Safety Act

Now companies can use a streamlined application to submit their anti-terrorism products for review

The foiling of a terrorist plot in August to blow up planes that were headed to the United States and the five-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon have focused renewed attention on the crucial role of technology in protecting the United States.

After the 2001 terrorist attacks, the government moved aggressively to stimulate innovation and encourage the private sector to develop cutting-edge technologies to aid in the war on terrorism.

One of the biggest challenges the government faced was companies’ fears of tort liability in the case of a terrorist attack. Businesses were afraid of being sued out of existence amid claims that their anti-terrorist technology failed to thwart an attack.

Lawmakers created the Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies (Safety) Act of 2002 to promote the effective use of technologies that federal, state and local governments and commercial entities can use to guard against terrorist attacks.

The act provides significant product liability protection to the recipient of a Safety Act designation, its customers and subcontractors. It authorizes the secretary of the Homeland Security Department to designate qualified anti-terrorism technologies to receive certain protections.

It also establishes a litigation management framework for claims arising from a terrorist act when qualified technologies have been deployed. The Safety Act limits the legal action that people can take when they believe the failure of those technologies caused their injuries.

The act provides for a statutory “government contractor defense” for technologies that are certified by DHS after a higher level of examination. This is a common law defense to tort liability claims that the Supreme Court established in a 1988 case, Boyle v. United Technologies Corp., which protects manufacturers from design-defect lawsuits when the government approved those designs. The act creates a rebuttable presumption that the government contractor defense applies to qualified technologies.

A variety of technologies received Safety Act protection, but industry officials complained that the application process was slow and unnecessarily burdensome, which kept some companies from getting Safety Act designations.

In response, DHS has issued a streamlined application kit that clarifies the information that companies must provide before DHS reviews a particular technology. The new kit includes expedited procedures and a simplified pre-application process to let companies know whether the technology is likely to be approved. It also allows companies to wait for an initial evaluation before providing detailed Safety data.

The Safety Act is an important tool for the government to access new technologies by providing liability limitations and other incentives for contractors that develop and sell those technologies.

Time will tell whether the new kit will improve the Safety Act application process and help stimulate a greater number and variety of anti-terrorism technologies to protect the country. There are still some gaps in the new kit, such as the lack of a clearly defined time frame for an expedited application. However, the new kit is a useful response to industry’s concerns and a step forward in the war on terrorism.

Nadler is a partner in the law firm of Dickstein Shapiro. Contact him at nadlerd@dicksteinshapiro.com.

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.

Featured

  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

  • Shutterstock image.

    A 'minibus' appropriations package could be in the cards

    A short-term funding bill is expected by Sept. 30 to keep the federal government operating through early December, but after that the options get more complicated.

  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco

    DOD launches new tech hub in Austin

    The DOD is opening a new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Austin, Texas, while Congress debates legislation that could defund DIUx.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group