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FCC continues push to make Next Generation 911 a reality nationwide

This past week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a notice of inquiry (NOI), "seeking public comment on how Next Generation 911 (NG911) can enable the public to obtain emergency assistance by means of advanced communications technologies beyond traditional voice-centric devices." In plain English, the FCC is seeking comments on how to improve the general public's ability to send text, picture and video messages to 9-1-1, while narrowing the gap of communication devices used by the general public and improving the ability of public safety answering points (PSAPs) to receive information. The FCC notes that 70 percent of 9-1-1 calls are now made from mobile devices, yet most PSAPs are not equipped to receive any text or video communications. The research generated by the NOI will go a long way in terms of shaping strategies to align the capabilities of PSAPs with the public's growing technological sophistication.

The FCC is seeking comment on the following issues, including, but not limited to:

• The technical feasibility and limitations of text messaging video streaming and photos

• Consumer privacy issues, particularly related to the sharing of personal electronic medical data

• Development of technical and policy standards

• Consumer education and awareness

• Intergovernmental coordination and coordination within the public safety community

Comments may be filed using:

• The FCC's Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS)

• The Federal Government's eRulemaking Portal

• Paper copies

The NOI sets the tone for 2011 to be a year of real progress for NG911 efforts. In 2010, I traveled to various state-level National Emergency Number Association conferences, from my home state of Virginia to Arizona, and the one thing I noted at all of these conferences was the dedication of 911 professionals doing everything they can to help their fellow citizens. It is great to see the federal government match this commitment by taking steps to improve to the nation's network of 911 systems. Given the cost of implementing NG911, and the financial hardships facing local governments, this process will by no means be easy, but it is absolutely necessary. GovWin is tracking NG911 opportunities across the country, including projects in Massachusetts (GovWin Opp ID 58728), California (GovWin Opp ID 12852) and Illinois (GovWin Opp ID 64769) just to name a few.

For more information on public safety communications in general, take a look at GovWin's Public Safety Interoperable Communications report. For more information on funding for 911 systems, I recommend GovWin's Governors' Budget: Public Safety Spending report and our Congressional Public Safety Funding Requests report. All of which can be found in GovWin's Research Library

The Rise of All-Payer Claims Databases: An Update

In 2009, GovWin reported that we would see increased implementation of the All-Payer Claims Database (APCD) in states across the country. We predicted states would start to catch on to this initiative to improve health care delivery and facilitate reform, and I am proud to report that our forecast hit the mark.

The All-Payer Claims Database is a state-created database that collects and reports medical claims, pharmacy claims, eligibility files, provider files, and dental claims data. The data is collected from all health care payers, including health insurance companies and third party administrators. Typically, states have enacted legislation to mandate the use of an APCD; however, we've found voluntary reporting of data to be infrequent and less successful. The collected data is important for policymakers, consumers, researchers, and providers, and offers a breadth of information on health care cost, quality and access.

Currently, 11 states across the nation have an operational APCD and two more states are actively implementing based on enacted legislation. GovWin is tracking the following states actively implementing an APCD:

  • Oregon - The Oregon Office of Health Policy and Research is finalizing a contract with Milliman, Inc. for the All-Payer All-Claims Data Program. For more information, see GovWin Opportunity # 57970
  • Rhode Island - The Rhode Island Quality Institute is currently evaluating responses to a request for proposals (RFP), and anticipates a contract award early next year. For more information, see GovWin Opportunity # 65451

In a departure from the legislative model, former West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin issued an executive order for his state to join the trend and begin establishing an APCD. Though still in the early planning stages, a solicitation for the West Virginia APCD is expected early next year. For more information, see GovWin Opportunity # 59819.

Over the course of 2011, it is highly likely that more states will see the APCD as an integral component to health care reform and begin the development process. Legislation will likely be necessary to develop an APCD; however, six states have already begun the process through informal discussions. As these discussions intensify and funding becomes available for APCD development, GovWin will add new opportunities to our database and continue to update you on this exciting health care reform component.

DoD Service Contracting Cuts Lower Than Feared

After much confusion and distress over Secretary Gates' plans to cut service contract spending, it looks like the impact will be less than what was initially feared. Back in August, Defense Secretary Gates sent shockwaves through the contracting community when he announced plans to cut service contractor spending by 10% over the next 3 years as part of strategy to cut $100B in defense spending in 5 years. The main questions contractors have been pondering are, "What kind of service contracts?" and "How much money is that 10%?"

While federal contractors were trying to understand the types of contracts that would be impacted, the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (USD ATL) Ashton Carter released a guidance document in September entitled, "Obtaining Greater Efficiency and Productivity in Defense Spending." One of its major themes was "Improving Tradecraft in Services Acquisitions". In this document, Carter pointed to $200 billion in services contract spending that must be reined in.

On December 21, Deltek participated in a meeting conducted by Deputy Secretary of Defense, William Lynn and including Virginia Congressional delegation members and representatives from the Professional Services Council (PSC) and the Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC). Deltek's Clarity Advisor report provides details of this meeting, but the bottom line is that, based on a data call to DoD components to determine the extent of support service contracts (particularly those that provide staff augmentation), Lynn estimates that the spending cut applies to $4.3 billion out of a reported $143 billion (rather than $200 million) in total services contracts for FY2009. Although contractors holding those targeted contracts have some reason to worry, 10% of $4.3 billion is a lot less worrisome than the $14.3 billion originally feared.

While this 10% spending cut is pretty straight forward, there are other factors at play that stand to significantly impact all services contracts to some degree. Carter's initiatives under the "Improving Tradecraft in Services Acquisitions "address a few primary problems:

  • Lack of a common taxonomy of service types - all DoD components must begin to use a common taxonomy across all of DoD's PSC-based portfolios: knowledge-based services, electronics and communications
  • services, equipment-related services, medical services, facility-related services, and transportation services.

  • Lack of standardization in requirements for service contracts – components must maximize use of standard Performance Work Statement (PWS) templates and create market research teams to increase understanding of industry capabilities and pricing.
  • Not enough frequency in competition for knowledge-based services - components must review length of services contracts before recomplete to establish strategies to enhance competition by conducting more frequent re-competes for knowledge-based services.
  • Contracts types used – components must develop preference for Cost-Plus-Fixed-Fee (CPFF) or Cost-Plus-Incentive-Fee (CPIF) contracts to be used when competition or pricing history is limited.

  • Lack of productivity and cost efficiency provisions - USD ATL will require that services contracts in excess of $1 billion contain productivity and cost efficiency provisions.
  • Lower-than-desired small business participation in service contracts - OSD Office of Small Business Programs will review services acquisition plans for procurements over $1 billion to identify suitable tasks for small business set-asides.
  • Lack of leadership for services contracts implementation - each component must create a Sr. Manager of Acquisition of Services position responsible for planning, execution, strategic sourcing and service contract management.

The implications of these initiatives are numerous:

  • Much more scrutiny on services contracting (requirements, redundancy, cost and performance)
  • Consistency in definitions of services types will help vendors translate previous work from one component to the next
  • Better developed requirements for services will minimize scope creep (and likely bringing more scrutiny to changes to requirements)
  • More emphasis on market research to meet growing demands for data and analysis around the services market
  • More frequent recompetes implies:
    • Incumbents' more frequent costs to maintain position
    • Opportunities for non-incumbents (incl. through on-ramp provisions)
    • Shorter contracts
  • Contractors must adjust to preference for Cost-Plus-Fixed-Fee and Cost-Plus-Incentive-Fee service contracts
  • Vendors must build cost efficiency into projects – particularly those above $1 billion. Also keep in mind that cost efficiencies gained by incumbents will drive down the cost baseline for new bidders on recompetes.

So where do contractors go from here? The Clarity Advisor report nicely summarizes the point:

"A sign of relief from the industry is certainly warranted, but this is only the beginning of the new culture of conservation and restraint at DoD. Secretary Gates' goal of $100B in savings over five years remains, and if cuts in "service support contracts" will only contribute $1.2B ($400M a year for three years), where will the rest come from? For firms who see themselves in Secretary Lynn's description of service support contractors, the large question is still 'What do I do?' "

Deltek's original paper on Gates' cuts provides solid advice to contractors operating in this space. What is clear is that DoD is coming at this problem from multiple angles, so whether your specific type of service offering is part of the targeted spending cut or not, it is critical that service contractors examine the elements and performance of contracts. With more oversight and more frequency in competition, contractors will need to dedicate time and resources to ensuring the stability of existing work.

Arkansas Gearing Up for MMIS Procurements

If you are a vendor interested in Medicaid Management Information Systems (MMIS), or perhaps integration services, or maybe authorization, or case management (you get the picture), then you are in luck. The Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) is taking a different approach in its MMIS reprocurement. On January 3, 2011, DHS plans on releasing not one, not two, but 23 requests for proposals (RFPs) in support of the state's MMIS reprocurement. DHS plans to have the RFPs available for four months, followed by vendor demonstrations and product evaluations. Nothing will preclude a vendor from winning all 23 RFPs, but all responding vendors who meet the threshold qualifications will be expected to demonstrate a working product in May 2011.

Veterans of the MMIS market may assume Arkansas' new procurement approach parallels that of Iowa's Medicaid experience, and they are correct. Gene Gessow, Iowa's former Medicaid director, is now Arkansas' leading man. Gessow believes that in order to meet new and progressive responsibilities in the coming years, Medicaid organizations need to reinvent themselves. One of the larger trends GovWin forecasts is this reinvention of integrated (or integratable-component) systems for the increased flow of data throughout the health care (and possibly human services) space, which Arkansas is keeping in mind. Included in the MMIS RFPs are a master patient index (MPI), master client index (MCI), provider directory, clinical data services, and an electronic health record (EHR) portal for the state's health information exchange (AR SHARE). Gessow confirmed that a large part of AR SHARE will flow through the MMIS system, as it should. Medicaid systems are the biggest (and sometimes only) databases states currently own that house their population's health care information. States will have no choice but to lean on their MMIS as they attempt to meet looming health care reform deadlines.

For more information on the Arkansas MMIS RFPs, please click here.

Texas issues Request for Proposal for Emergency Services Internet Protocol Network (ESInet)

On December 15, 2010, the Texas Commission on State Emergency Communications (CSEC) released a solicitation (RFP# 477.1.00064) for an Emergency Services IP Network (ESInet). This project aims to migrate the entire state onto a Next Generation 911 (NG-911) platform. Planning to determine the transition of all Texas Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) from the current 911 system to the NG-911 system began in January 2008. This project will be an incremental, multiyear effort aligned with the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) Functional and Interface Standards for NG-911. Full implementation of the Texas NG-911 system will require the commission and all (76) 911 entities to coordinate and collaborate to form regional ESInets, and transition 573 PSAPs to the Texas NG-911 system. In the final state, a minimum of eight and a maximum of 14 regional ESInets are anticipated.

Planning for this project has been in the works for many years. The state contracted with L. Robert Kimball & Associates to help develop a plan for NG-911. This project will be utilizing grant funding under the Ensuring Needed Help Arrives Near Callers Employing 911 Act (ENHANCE 911 Act). These funds will be used for the acquisition of goods and services requested for this project, along with the acquisition of geospatial database management systems and radio over IP equipment. GovWin estimates this effort could cost tens of millions of dollars given the scope and size of the state.

The request for proposals (RFP) timeline is as follows:

  • December 15, 2010 - Publish RFP
  • January 5, 2011- Mandatory Pre-Proposal Conference
  • February 16, 2011- Questions due date
  • March 9, 2011- Proposals due
  • April 11-22, 2011- Oral Interviews/Presentations
  • May 9, 2011- Negotiations and Contract Award

DHS Grant Program 2011 Blog Series: Day 3

To capture the bigger picture, this last installment of GovWin's three-part blog series on the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) grant programs examines DHS grant funding priorities and how they relate to state and local agencies.

Secretary Napolitano clearly expressed the DHS's interest in public safety grant spending, as she has significantly increased the budgets of two of the largest DHS grant programs for state and local agencies in FY 2011 - the Urban Area Security Initiative Grant (UASI) and the State Homeland Security Grant Program (SHSGP). A combined increase of 56 percent signals a high priority to fund programs that will specifically focus on the UASI and SHSGP priorities. This amounts to about 300 million more dollars that the DHS will be able to allocate to state and local agencies.

In comparison with total DHS past spending, grants have remained pretty constant at two percent of the DHS's total spending. In 2009, the DHS spent $10.6 billion – or two percent of the total $460.9 billion budget – on grant programs. In 2010, grant assistance totaled $6.6 billion, or 2.6 percent of the total spending for 2010 ($249.7 billion). An overall increase in DHS's spending accounts for this year-over-year increase, with no change in the percentage of total spending.

In FY 2011, grants will be utilized for technology to cover the shortfalls state budget cuts have caused in the public safety industry. These budget cuts have affected public safety IT projects and state and local agencies' hope to utilize some of DHS's funding for new technology requirements previously put on hold due to funding constraints. State and local agencies also hope to procure technologies that allow them to better deal with budget shortfalls. Technologies with better coverage, reliability, and data capabilities will be utilized in place of decreased personnel, closed radio communications offices, and fire stations deemed less needed than others. The FCC mandated narrowbanding requirements will affect which projects state and local agencies apply for grant funding for. As the January 1, 2013 deadline nears, funding required to update or replace radio systems and equipment will be continually needed.

The Department of Homeland Security has its own focus and project priorities it would like to see state and local agencies deploy; and the DHS has the ability to change grant funding guidelines to fit those interests. On the top of its list, the DHS is interested in expanding information-sharing programs in states. SAR, NSI, and NDex are included in the information-sharing environment (ISE). The DHS, in hand with continued information-sharing expansion efforts, continues to look for the enhancement of fusion centers to continue collaboration with the federal government. Finally, emergency preparedness for state and local agencies is always a high priority, as is the ability to plan for, and react to disasters in a timely and effective manner.

Other DHS priorities for the grant programs come from the National Preparedness Guidelines. The department expanded these guidelines from four to eight in 2010, as further interest in more programs increased. The eight National Preparedness Guidelines developed by the DHS include:

  • Expand Regional Collaboration
  • Implement the National Incident Management System and National Response Framework
  • Implement the National Infrastructure Protection Plan
  • Strengthen Information Sharing and Collaboration Capabilities
  • Strengthen Interoperable and Operable Communications Capabilities
  • Strengthen CBRNE Detection, Response, and Decontamination Capabilities

For the Port Security Grant Program (PSGP), two priorities continually paramount to the program are risk-based funding and regional security cooperation. The DHS is interested in allocating the bulk of its funding to those high-risk ports. The rest of the PSGP funding will be given to those ports interested in developing or expanding regional coordination and providing an investment strategy that institutionalizes regional security strategy integration.

Relatively unchanged in past years, the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program (AFG) will remain focused on firefighter life and safety as well as the safety of the public. This breaks down to training, personal protective equipment (PPE), and the purchase of rescue, EMS, and CBRNE firefighting equipment.

GovWin will continue to monitor the DHS Grant Guideline release for further FY 2011 information.

Spending cuts expected in Georgia education

Georgia Governor-elect Nathan Deal is quickly realizing he has quite a task ahead of him as he takes office. Since winning the election, Deal has spent the past month examining the state budget and has come to the conclusion that education spending may be a target for future budget cuts, specifically the Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally (HOPE) scholarship.

The HOPE scholarship program, created in 1993, is a merit-based higher education scholarship funded entirely by the Georgia Lottery and its revenue. To receive HOPE scholarship funding, a student must meet one of the following academic requirements:

  • Graduate from a HOPE-eligible high school with a 3.0 grade point average for college preparatory diploma or a 3.2 grade point average for other diploma types
  • Complete a HOPE eligible home study program with a 3.0 grade point average
  • Georgia high school graduates who begin their high school careers during or after the 2008-2009 school year must graduate with a 3.0 grade point average
  • Graduate from an eligible high school, complete an eligible home study program, or earn a GED, and score in the national composite 85th percentile or higher on the SAT or ACT tests
  • Graduate from an ineligible high school or complete an ineligible home study program, and then earn a 3.0 grade point average on 30 semester hours or 45 quarter hours of college degree-level coursework. This option allows for payment of the first 30 semester hours or 45 quarter hours after they are taken
  • Earn a 3.0 grade point average at the college level on degree coursework after attempting 30, 60, or 90 semester hours, or 45, 90, or 135 quarter hours, regardless of high school graduation status

In addition, the student must also meet all of the following requirements:

  • Be enrolled as a degree-seeking student at an eligible public or private college or university or technical college in Georgia
  • Meet HOPE's Georgia residency requirements
  • Meet HOPE's U.S. citizenship or eligible noncitizen requirements
  • Be in compliance with Selective Service registration requirements
  • Be in compliance with the Georgia Drug-Free Postsecondary Education Act of 1990. A student may be ineligible for HOPE payment if he or she has been convicted of committing certain felony offenses involving marijuana, controlled substances, or dangerous drugs
  • Not be in default or owe a refund on a student financial aid program
  • Maintain satisfactory academic progress as defined by the college

This scholarship covers full tuition and most fees for the recipient to attend any public university in Georgia. However, as it stands right now, the overseeing body of the scholarship, The Georgia Student Finance Commission, projects a shortfall of $244 million this fiscal year and around $317 million in 2012. Although the scholarship maintains about $1 billion in reserves, the amount is expected to shrink to $371 million by the end of 2012.

It seems this scholarship slashing is going to take a major toll on educational spending throughout the state. Budgets will have to be examined and every spare dollar will have to be tracked. As the governor puts it, "There are going to be tough choices on K-12 education again this year." Nevertheless, this is a very important and popular program within the state, and Deal stressed a fundamental approach will be taken in assessing what changes need to be made to successfully continue it. He believes the first step is to maintain the origins of how the scholarship was designed as well as examine the enhancements made to it over the years, and then decide which enhancements can be continued and which should be eliminated.

DHS Grant Program 2011 Blog Series: Day 2

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plans to release the FY 2011 Grant Guidelines sometime in the next month. Upon release, state and local agencies will have the opportunity to apply for public safety funding. Due to the economic situation many states are facing, including budget cuts and shortfalls, GovWin estimates there will be a lot of competition for public safety grants in FY 2011.

Last year, DHS grant program funding totaled $2.9 billion. This included the Urban Area Security Initiative Grant (UASI); the State Homeland Security Grant Program (SHSGP); the Port Security Grant Program (PSGP); the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program (AFG); the Interoperable Emergency Communications Grant Program (IECGP); and the Emergency Operations Center Grant (EOC). The IECGP and the EOC grant will not be funded in FY 2011.

The total amount of requested funding for FY 2011 is $3 billion, a 6 percent increase from the previous year. This percentage increase is due in part to Secretary Napolitano's recommended FY 2011 budget increases for the UASI and the SHSGP, a 32 percent and 24 percent increase from FY 2010, respectively. For a program-by-program breakdown, the anticipated grant allocations for FY 2011 are:

  • For the UASI, FY 2011 requested funds total $1.1 billion
  • For the SHSGP, FY 2011 requested funds total $1.05 billion
  • For the PSGP, FY 2011 requested funds total $300 million
  • For the AFG, FY 2011 requested funds total $420 million

The increase in requested funding comes from an overall increase in the market forecast due to a number of factors pressuring state and local public safety agencies to spend more. This includes the FCC mandated narrowbanding requirement, which calls for state and local agencies to upgrade or replace their current communications equipment and systems and old or obsolete technology systems, in addition to ensuring safety of first responders and an increased reliance on new technology to provide more value as other public safety items are cut due to smaller budgets. Roughly 42 percent of states still do not have full-scale interoperable communications networks, and states are constantly working toward full interoperability.

For FY 2010, the top five Department of Homeland Security award recipients are:

  • Illinois Emergency Agencies
  • State Emergency Food and Shelter Efforts
  • The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency
  • The city of Los Angeles
  • The Mississippi Department of Public Safety

The Illinois Emergency Agencies received the most funding at $227 million. These funds are used primarily for communications projects, as those are the biggest, most expensive, and most integral part of public safety departments. For more information on public safety communications, check out GovWin's report HERE. Other spending includes 911, information-sharing systems, records management systems, security, vehicles, video, personnel, and other general IT.

Stay tuned for the last installment of GovWin's DHS Grant Program 2011 Blog Series tomorrow.

DHS Grant Program 2011 Blog Series

In preparation for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Grant Guidelines for FY 2011's release in the coming month, GovWin will be releasing a three-part blog series outlining the major DHS grant programs, grant allocations, and grant priorities.

The top DHS grant programs for FY 2011 include the Urban Area Security Initiative Grant (UASI), the State Homeland Security Grant Program (SHSGP), the Port Security Grant Program (PSGP), and the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program (AFG). These programs were identified as top DHS grant programs for state and local Agencies due to their focus on communications and alerting equipment; network and security systems; and training programs.

The UASI aims to provide funding to highly populated, major metropolitan areas. These are further classified into either Tier I or Tier II Urban Areas. Tier I areas are usually outlined as the top 10 cities in the U.S., and Tier II areas include 54 other large metropolitan areas across the country. The UASI focuses on law enforcement terrorism prevention-oriented planning; organization; training; exercise; and equipment. Most commonly, state and local agencies use these funds for interoperable communications equipment, alerting equipment, and surveillance networks.

The SHSGP is available to all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Funding is provided to implement strategies and initiatives included in state preparedness plans. Like the UASI, state and local agencies use this program to fund interoperable communications equipment, alerting equipment, and surveillance networks, as along with emergency management planning and information sharing networks.

The PSGP provides funding for ports and other critical infrastructure to combat nonconventional threats and terrorism. Its main goal is to prevent a major disruption of commerce at all port areas. The U.S.'s 360 commercial port activities in 2007 contributed approximately $3.15 trillion to the U.S. economy (AAPA). State and local agencies use this grant program for prevention and awareness systems, training and exercises, and Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) Implementation.

The AFG program provides funding directly to fire departments and nonaffiliated emergency medical services (EMS), allowing them the necessary tools for emergency response personnel to protect the health and safety of the public. The most common uses for this grant are staffing to increase the number of frontline firefighters, and projects that enhance safety from fire and related hazards. State and local agencies will use this grant for firefighting equipment, training costs, and technology.

The UASI and the SHSGP are both formula grants and use a different mathematical equation to determine funding. To determine the funding level for each urban area, the UASI mathematical equation encompasses population, crime, risk, and other variables. Based on this equation, the top UASI funding recipients from the last ten years (2000-2010) are:

  • California Office of Homeland Security
  • New York State Division of Criminal Justice
  • Texas Department of Public Safety
  • Texas Engineering Extension SVC
  • Florida Division of Emergency Management
  • Illinois Emergency Management
  • Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency
  • New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety
  • Ohio Department of Public Safety EMA
  • DC Justice Grants Administration

Tier I Urban Areas are usually allocated about two-thirds of the total funding appropriated, and the Tier II Urban Areas receive the remaining one-third. The California Office of Homeland Security received the most funding over the last 10 years with $141 million. In FY 2010, $832.5 million was appropriated to the UASI program. This number is around four percent higher than what was appropriated in FY 2009. Based on the DHS's FY 2011 budget request, the UASI program is estimated to reach $1.1 billion in available funding for FY 2011 – a 32 percent increase from FY 2010.

The SHSGP is also a formula grant, and like UASI, uses a mathematical equation encompassing population crime, risk, and other variables to determine the funding level for each state. Each state will receive a minimum allocation under the SHSP using the thresholds established in the 9/11 Act. All 50 states and the District of Columbia will receive 0.36 percent of the total funds allocated. In FY 2010, $842 million was appropriated to the SHSP. This number is around three percent less than what was appropriated in FY 2009. Based on DHS's FY 2011 budget request, the SHSP is estimated to reach $1.05 billion in available funding for FY 2011 – a 24 percent increase from FY 2010.

The PSGP and AFG recipients are both determined by different methods. For example, based on a fiscal year analysis, PSGP applicants are divided into three groups. The Group I and II ports receive a pre-designated target amount of funding, while Group III ports compete for the remaining funds through individual applications. The AFG sets limits on how much an agency can request based on their population, and awards funding with a more traditional application method.

The IECFG and EOC grant programs have been historically very important for the Department of Homeland Security; however, no funding has been requested for FY 2011 for these programs.

Fiscal Year 2011 Earmarks Revisited: Can states live without them?

Earlier in the year, House Republicans decided to establish a moratorium on all federal funding, or earmark, requests. Two weeks ago, the United State Senate voted 56 to 39 in favor of banning earmarks for two years; however, 67 votes were needed to pass the moratorium. While the House Republicans move was purely voluntary, the vote would have made the ban enforceable. Earlier this year in July, GovWin published a report entitled "Congressional Public Safety Funding Requests – A Billion Dollar Lifeline, which discussed the fiscal year 2011 funding requests and the implications this money would have on state and local governments, who by and large, could have desperately used the funding the earmarks would provide.

With the failure of the earmark votes in Congress, will states now receive the funding requests they had previously made to move forward with hundreds of valuable public safety projects? Many states, including Mississippi really hope that they do receive this money. Mississippi relies on many of these earmarks to move forward with projects that it could not afford, many of which are important such as a marijuana detection program to eradicate to growing of the illegal substance.

As GovWin reported in July, nearly one billion dollars were requested for the Justice and Public Safety sector alone, which is not exactly a small number, especially when you consider that nearly $130 billion dollars in earmarks were requested in total. Many states have budgets that are in the red, and the receipt of these funds is essential to continue many statewide interoperable radio initiatives, in car camera projects, information sharing software and even personnel and training for law enforcement agencies. Without these funds, many agencies will need to cut their workforce which would be even more devastating due to the difficulty in finding new jobs in this tough economy.

Overall, earmarks account for one percent of the Federal Budget and advocates argue that banning them would not actually "save taxpayers any money [and] reduces transparency," according to Republican Senator James Inhofe from Oklahoma. By making earmark requests open and transparent and giving senators and congressmen the ability to provide their local districts with funding for important projects, power is being shifted into the hands of state and local governments.

The fiscal year 2011 earmarks will likely pass and be given to the requested agencies. In a time when the economy as a whole is not booming and state and local governments are hurting, it is not the time to withhold funds from desperate agencies. Moving forward in the future, Congress needs to continue the debate on earmarks and determine a more appropriate approach, including additional transparency.

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