10:42 AM EDT

Rick Boucher, D-VA 9th

Mr. BOUCHER. Mr. Speaker, before the House today is Senate 1694, a measure to enable funding for the Interoperable Emergency Communications Grant Program to remain available through fiscal year 2012. In the absence of this measure, the funds for the program could not be expended by the recipients of grants under the program after the end of this year.

The bill before the House has been approved in the other body, and it is identical to House bills previously introduced by the gentlelady from California (Ms. Harman) and by the gentleman from Louisiana (Mr. Cao). The bill extends the Public Safety Interoperable Communications Grant Program that is jointly administered by the U.S. Department of Commerce through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The funds, which are awarded as grants to first responders under the program, derive from proceeds of the auction by the Federal Communications Commission of the 700 megahertz spectrum, which became available as TV broadcasters ceased their analog television broadcasts in association with the digital television transition. The program had its genesis in recommendations by the 9/11 Commission concerning the well-acknowledged shortcomings in interoperable communications capabilities among first

responders nationwide.

As required by law, the Department of Commerce's Office of the Inspector General conducted an annual assessment of that Department's management of this grant program. It found that the NTIA within the Department of Commerce had met the statutory guidelines and requirements for making awards and for reviewing and approving the grantees' communications plans, but the Office of Inspector General also found that the congressional deadline which exists in current law had not allowed the States a sufficient

amount of time within which by the end of this year to expend the grant funds that they receive under this program. That inability of States to expend all of these moneys by the end of this year is what necessitates the passage of the measure that is before us today.

[Time: 10:45]

Ms. Harman's measure was approved by the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet of our House Energy and Commerce Committee on the 8th of October, and her measure was approved by the full committee on October 15. It has been endorsed by, among others, the National Governors Association, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials--International, the Telecommunications Industry Association, the National Emergency

Management Association, and mayors of the cities of New York, Houston, and Los Angeles. S. 1694 passed the other body by unanimous consent on October 14, and we're taking up the Senate measure today so that upon approval in the House, it can go directly to the President for signature without further delay.

I want to say thank you this morning to the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Stearns), who is the ranking Republican member of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet, and also the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Barton), who is the ranking member on our full committee, for the bipartisan manner in which we have processed the legislation through the Energy and Commerce Committee. I commend both Ms. Harman and Mr. Cao for their leadership.

Mr. Speaker, with the conclusion of these comments, I reserve the balance of my time.

10:46 AM EDT

Joseph Cao, R-LA 2nd

Mr. CAO. Mr. Speaker, S. 1694, with an identical version in the House, H.R. 3633 and H.R. 3348, is an important bill because it would provide an additional 2 years for public safety officials, first responders, and firefighters to use communications grants. This will help many districts, especially ones like mine, where officials are still replacing and upgrading equipment. Only people who have lived through the horrors such as Katrina realize the importance of this grant.

After Katrina, much of the communications systems in the Second Congressional District and throughout southeast Louisiana were down for a period of several weeks. First responders were trying to save lives and trying to fight crime, while at the same time they were unable to communicate with one another. So, with this grant, it will provide cities such as New Orleans the time to rebuild their emergency operations centers. That includes replacing the building in which they were housed as well

as replacing an entire interoperable system. Some emergency personnel are still using radios on loan from FEMA 4 years after the storm because, without an extension, the Public Safety Interoperable Communications Grant Program would have expired next year. My district could not fully take advantage of it.

Other areas in the Gulf Coast and Midwest that were struggling to rebuild after disasters were also having trouble completing or even applying for communications grants because of the short window of the program. It became clear that the need for this program extended beyond those areas when we began to receive calls and letters of support from States like Vermont, Montana, Texas, and California, who all voiced the same concern--they needed more time to use these grants, and they needed Congress'

help.

The International Association of Fire Fighters, National Emergency Management Association, and Association of Public Safety Officials all lent their support to this effort. I would like to thank them for helping get this bill up for a vote.

I would also like to thank the staff on the Energy and Commerce Committee for their fast, bipartisan work on getting this bill to the floor, and I would also like to extend my thanks to the gentlewoman from California, Congresswoman JANE HARMAN, who took the initiative to file H.R. 3633 when there was a slim chance that my own bill, H.R. 3348, would have a chance of passing. So I would like to thank her for her initiative in making sure that this important extension gets passed so that

we can help people who need help.

I would also like to thank my colleagues on the floor who have shown the bipartisan support and spirit to support this bill today.

Mr. Speaker, it doesn't seem that I have any other speakers, so I will yield back the balance of my time.

10:46 AM EDT

Joseph Cao, R-LA 2nd

Mr. CAO. Mr. Speaker, S. 1694, with an identical version in the House, H.R. 3633 and H.R. 3348, is an important bill because it would provide an additional 2 years for public safety officials, first responders, and firefighters to use communications grants. This will help many districts, especially ones like mine, where officials are still replacing and upgrading equipment. Only people who have lived through the horrors such as Katrina realize the importance of this grant.

After Katrina, much of the communications systems in the Second Congressional District and throughout southeast Louisiana were down for a period of several weeks. First responders were trying to save lives and trying to fight crime, while at the same time they were unable to communicate with one another. So, with this grant, it will provide cities such as New Orleans the time to rebuild their emergency operations centers. That includes replacing the building in which they were housed as well

as replacing an entire interoperable system. Some emergency personnel are still using radios on loan from FEMA 4 years after the storm because, without an extension, the Public Safety Interoperable Communications Grant Program would have expired next year. My district could not fully take advantage of it.

Other areas in the Gulf Coast and Midwest that were struggling to rebuild after disasters were also having trouble completing or even applying for communications grants because of the short window of the program. It became clear that the need for this program extended beyond those areas when we began to receive calls and letters of support from States like Vermont, Montana, Texas, and California, who all voiced the same concern--they needed more time to use these grants, and they needed Congress'

help.

The International Association of Fire Fighters, National Emergency Management Association, and Association of Public Safety Officials all lent their support to this effort. I would like to thank them for helping get this bill up for a vote.

I would also like to thank the staff on the Energy and Commerce Committee for their fast, bipartisan work on getting this bill to the floor, and I would also like to extend my thanks to the gentlewoman from California, Congresswoman JANE HARMAN, who took the initiative to file H.R. 3633 when there was a slim chance that my own bill, H.R. 3348, would have a chance of passing. So I would like to thank her for her initiative in making sure that this important extension gets passed so that

we can help people who need help.

I would also like to thank my colleagues on the floor who have shown the bipartisan support and spirit to support this bill today.

Mr. Speaker, it doesn't seem that I have any other speakers, so I will yield back the balance of my time.