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President Obama's Fiscal Year 2012 budget: $7.57 Billion in State and Local Public Safety Programs

Today, President Obama released his proposed fiscal year 2012 budget, which outlines proposed budget figures for many highly relied upon grant programs within state and local governments. According to the president's budget, $407 billion is estimated to be handed out in the form of grants to state and local governments in FY 2012. Of that $407 billion, $4.73 billion is proposed for the administration of justice. A total of $2.57 billion will be discretionary funding made available to state and local public safety agencies via the Office of Justice Programs (breakdown below). On the homeland security front, $5 billion is proposed for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) discretionary funding (breakdown below). This totals roughly $7.57 billion in state and local, public safety and homeland security grants for FY 2012 – a 27 percent decrease from FY 2010, and a 4 percent decrease from the FY 2011 continuing resolution numbers.

Highlights:

Department of Justice:

  • The budget provides $600 million to support our nation's first responders and the hiring and retention of about 4,500 police officers and sheriffs' deputies across the country.
  • The budget provides $244 million in funding and set-asides for tribal criminal justice assistance.
  • The budget continues to strengthen state and local criminal justice programs with almost $3 billion in discretionary assistance for police hiring, general purpose criminal justice assistance, violence against women programs, and other initiatives.

Department of Homeland Security:

  • Increases were made in core homeland security functions such as border security and Coast Guard assets. Savings are achieved by the elimination of six stove-piped and duplicative state and local grant programs.
  • The budget refocuses funding for border surveillance on technologies proven to work, allowing for a tailored approach to different areas.
  • The proposed plan bolsters the nation's preparedness by providing $3.8 billion for state and local grants to support capability enhancements for first responder and emergency management communities.

Department of Commerce:

  • The budget provides more than $10 billion of resources in mandatory spending – offset by spectrum auction proceeds – to help build an interoperable public safety broadband network that will strengthen economic growth and public safety, while benefitting from commercial innovation.

For more information on the public safety and homeland security market, GovWin has released its State & Local Justice/Public Safety and Homeland Security Market, 2010-2015 report, which analyzes the trends for police protection, corrections, and judicial IT as well as homeland security. Demand for vendor-furnished information systems and services by U.S. state and local public safety agencies will increase from $5.3 billion in 2010 to $6.1 billion in 2015, bringing $800 million in new spending to the market at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 2.9%.

2011 APCO Western States Regional Conference & Exposition

This week, I had the pleasure of attending the 2011 Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) Western States Regional Conference and Exposition in Ontario, California. Besides providing a temporary escape from the winter weather on the East Coast, the conference offered a great opportunity to interact with government decision-makers in the public safety community as well vendors who I usually only communicate with via email.

Two educational sessions particularly stood out among the many valuable presentations I attended, including one that I gave. Wednesday morning featured back-to-back sessions on the relationship between social media and 9-1-1. Marc Lading of Everbridge presented an engaging session titled "How to Incorporate Social Media into Your Emergency Alerting Plans. Ron Dunn, communications manager for the San Bernardino County Sherriff's Office, followed with a presentation titled "The Social Media and 9-1-1." Attending these sessions provided the opportunity to participate in the discussion from both the vendor perspective and public safety perspective within a two-hour span.

Mr. Landing's presentation covered how public safety organizations can leverage social media to augment their emergency alerting plans. The basic premise of using social media is to go where your audience is, and if your audience spends time online, they probably spend time on Twitter or Facebook. (GovWin has covered this issue in this blog Law enforcement agencies board the social media train ) In covering best practices in emergency alerting, Mr. Landing recommended municipalities include an opt-in function that allows citizens to include not just phone numbers, but also social media handles such as Facebook user names and Twitter handles. This session featured audience feedback on why some municipalities don't use social media. Reasons ranged from an out of touch IT director, to unfounded fears of bringing down the city server via Facebook viruses.

While Mr. Lading focused his discussion on how public safety answering points (PSAPs) can utilize social media to help engage the public, Mr. Dunn focused on how the public has begun to utilize social media to engage public safety agencies for help. This session became more of an interactive forum for the audience to discuss how they have dealt with situations in which the public sought 9-1-1 assistance through text messages, Facebook postings and tweets. Situations where someone calls 9-1-1 and reports a friend posted a cry for help Facebook are much more common than I would have thought. Multiple audience members had examples of times when they had to respond to calls of this nature. This brought about even more discussion about where PSAP's responsibility begins and ends in terms of logging on to Facebook or Twitter to find and verify the information on these individuals. Many attendees believe this issue will not be resolved until a major lawsuit occurs, while others feel there is a need for public information campaigns to inform citizens of both the capabilities and the limitations of 9-1-1 systems.

This is a perfect example of why it is worthwhile to attend regional level APCO conferences. I found it extremely interesting to observe this discussion unfold, as I believe this is an issue that will only grow in importance for the APCO organization.

A New Game to Watch for “March Madness” – Budget Cuts for the Rest of FY 2011

With the existing Continuing Resolution that funds the federal government at FY 2010 levels through March 4 set to expire the U.S. House Appropriations Committee has released high-level details of a spending plan for the remainder of fiscal 2011 that includes spending cuts for each of the twelve Appropriations subcommittees. If enacted, these cuts would reduce FY 2011 spending by $74 billion compared to the President's FY 2011 budget request and by $35 billion compared to what was spent in FY 2010, returning spending to the pre-stimulus, pre-bailout funding levels of FY 2008.

This new CR is an effort by the new Republican House leadership to keep commitments in their "Pledge to America" from last fall's election campaign that gave them a majority in the House. Although full details of the budget changes will not be released until the new CR bill is formally introduced some high-level details have been trickling out. All eyes have been on Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) who has released both details of the subcommittee cuts and a list of 70 specific spending cuts that will be part of the new CR.

Below is an illustration comparing FY 2010 Enacted Budgets (under which agencies are currently operating until March 4) with the highlighted changes proposed in the new CR.

Some initial thoughts:

  • Note the relative magnitude of cuts compared to the overall appropriation level for each subcommittee. Some areas will feel the impact more than others. For example, Transportation/HUD and Commerce/Justice/Science which had seen the greatest level of increase since FY 2008 would see those increases reversed.
  • The highlighted differences provide a snapshot of how certain areas have changed since fiscal 2008, which is the funding level the CR is targeting to achieve.
  • Total Discretionary spending for FY 2011 would be reduced by 3% under the new CR.
  • Of the 12 appropriations subcommittees, only one is slated for any increase – Defense – with a 2% increase over FY 2010 levels.
  • Domestic and International spending overall is slated for a $58 billion, or 9% reduction from 2010 (current) levels compared to Defense, Homeland Security and Military Construction/Veterans spending which would see an overall increase of 1% over current FY 2010 enacted levels. In this, Homeland Security funding remains at FY 2010 levels.
In addition to the subcommittee funding levels touched on above the Committee release a list of 70 specific spending reductions totaling over $23 billion compared to the President's fiscal year 2011 request (as opposed to existing funding levels.) These cuts may have real implications within the federal technology landscape, although there are no details included. So we will need to wait until the CR is introduced. Here are a few additional observations from the list that may impact federal IT:
  • FAA Next Gen -$234 million
  • Law Enforcement Wireless Communications -$52 million
  • Office of Science -$1.1 billion
  • Energy areas take a significant hit – the following items are slated for respective cuts, totaling nearly $1.1 billion:
    • Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy -$899 million
    • Power Marketing Administrations -$52 million
    • Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability -$49 million
    • Energy Information Administration -$34 million
    • Fossil Energy Research -$31 million
    • Clean Coal Technology -$18 million

GovWin's Take

  • September IT Spending Spree Disrupted? – Since CR funding at FY 2010 levels will have been in place for almost half of FY 2011, reductions to agency budgets will need to be done in the second half of the year, falling disproportionately on Q3 and Q4. In addition to requiring agencies to reorganize priorities mid-stream, gone may be the traditional end-of-year spending spree where we have seen $20 billion or more in IT spending that hits in the months of August and September.
  • Democrats and Republics Go to the Mat . . . while the clock ticks – There is likely to be heated battle to get this plan through the Senate, in which Democrats have a majority. And there is continued debate within the House about whether these cuts are actually enough. We may see the Committee go back to the drawing board to increase the cuts to the $100 billion promised in the "Pledge to America" based on criticism from some GOP conservatives. All the while, the March 4 deadline looms.
  • CR as Precursor to FY 2012 Priorities Debate – Although the Appropriations Committee also compares spending cuts to the President's FY 2011 Budget request it is somewhat of a mute point since the previous Congress never acted upon the President's request. However, the comparison does draw a contrast between the Administration's priorities and those of the House majority. The debate over these priorities will likely come as part of the FY 2012 budget process which formally begins next week with the release of the President's new budget request. But the real debate has already ensued and will only become more contentious.
So with the President's FY 2012 budget hitting the streets amidst the remaining FY 2011 CR discussions the rest of February into March promises to be an engaging game to watch. If opposing rhetoric flies (this is Washington, after all) then we may be in for a new take on March Madness.

Stay tuned next week as we begin to analyze the President's new budget request to see what might be in store for federal IT.

Breaking Update: House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rogers announced this afternoon that after meetings with subcommittee Chairs that "the CR can and will reach a total of $100 billion in cuts compared to the President's [FY2011] request" and that they will make "deep but manageable cuts in nearly every area of government" with "no agency or program to be held sacred."

$4 Billion in Civilian Service Contracting Cuts on the Horizon

Following the lead of the Department of Defense, the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) has service contracting in its crosshairs for FY2012. According to Dan Gordon, Administrator, Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP), the FY2012 budget will call for a 10% cut in professional and technical "advisory services" contracting. The goal: cut spending while rebalancing the employee/contractor mix.

The FY 2010 Consolidated Appropriations Act requires agencies to develop an annual inventory of its service contracts. The FY2008 National Defense Authorization Act requires the same of the Department of Defense. Last year, Defense Secretary Gates set a 10% reduction target for similar support services. Now it's time for civilian agencies, and according to an article in Washington Technology, after seeing agencies' FY2010 service inventories Gordon also sees these types of service contracts as areas for significant savings.

One criticism that GAO had about DoD's service contract inventory was the lack of consistency that made it difficult to make comparisons among components or even within components year-over year. To get ahead of that problem, OFPP issued guidance to agencies that defined the required process, sources and data elements. Interestingly, this guidance required agencies to create a separate summary focused on 15 professional and technical services (although agencies could suggest additional service types that may be at risk for contractor overreliance). These service types, identified as functions in need of additional scrutiny for "heightened management consideration based on concerns of increased risk of losing control of mission and operations...", were dubbed "Special Interest Functions" and are noted below:

Source: FY2010 Agency Service Contract Inventories, FPDS

Analysis of the service inventories, as well as historical data from the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS) – which OFPP directed agencies to use to develop their inventories - led us to a number of insights:

  1. If the 10% target remains focused on these special functions, it could result in $4 billion in cuts (10% of FY2010 spending).
  2. The Professional and Management Services work will face the most scrutiny. They are more closely related to areas that have already been deemed as inherently governmental work, and spending under the IT Support Service codes is very small compared to the other special interest functions. The chart below shows the breakout between the two for the top agencies from the FY10 service inventories (note: DoD data is from FPDS; it's agencies have not yet published FY10 inventories)
  3. Source: OFPP

  4. Across civilian agencies the special functions with the highest growth between FY2006 and FY2010 (according to FPDS) were:
    • R707: Program Evaluation Services (102%)
    • R497: Personal Services Contracts (100%)
    • R425: Engineering and Technical Services (62%)
    • D302: ADP Systems Development Services (49%)
    • R407: Management Services/Contract & Procurement Support (48%)
    • As with most things, the bigger and flashier it is, the more attention it will receive. However, it also comes down to how far back they to compare spending. The picture gets better (at least in terms of growth) when compared to 2008, which seems to be the magic year for Congressional appropriators.

  5. While nothing is exempt, overall IT services are likely not the primary targets for the proposed 10% cut, however the four IT Support Services functions are at clearly risk. The majority of IT services, such as software development, design and consulting, and managed security services, have some staying power due to agencies' technology priorities and human capital shortfalls. This issue and other factors impacting the IT services market are addressed in our recently released report, "Federal IT Services Market Outlook, 2010-2015".

Agencies have follow-on work to do by June 30, 2011 - they are required to conduct analysis of their service contract inventories to determine if the contractor/employee mix is appropriate. The biggest question about the viability of this plan may come down to timing. The initial question when it comes to insourcing is, "Does the federal government have the workforce to do this internally?" For the special interest functions at least, I don't think so – at least not to a wide degree. However, OMB is instituting changes within its 25-Point Implementation plan to bolster the acquisition and IT workforce, as well as increase the frequency and scope of the infamous TechStat reviews, in order to streamline the process so that less contractor support is needed. But since these cuts are proposed for FY2012, will the federal government be able to institute enough change and develop the acquisition and IT workforce enough to pick up the slack in time?

Despite our cautious optimism, it would be foolhardy to assume that anything is off the table at this point. As analysts, our comfort comes from data, which offers some indication to the biggest targets. However, like everyone else, we are holding our breath until next week's release of the FY2012 President's Budget Request.

Virginia Reform Commission will Cut Spending by 2%

This is posted as part of GovWin's ongoing analysis of selected efforts to redesign and downsize government. (Subscription to GovWin State & Local Industry Analysis required.)

The Virginia Commission on Government Reform and Restructuring recently delivered its final report to Governor Bob McDonnell, and included strategies to cut state spending by 2%, or roughly $100 million.

Overall, the Commission made 133 recommendations to reform state government, reduce costs, and improve delivery of services. Notable recommendations include:

  • Reducing the state budget spending by at least 2%;
  • Privatizing the sale of distilled spirits;
  • Periodically evaluating and eliminating unnecessary mandates on local governments;
  • Better integrating shared services, such as back office operations like payroll and human resources;
  • Better managing state government travel, water and energy consumption; and
  • Embracing telecommuting, alternate work schedules, and a 4-day 10 hour work week for state employees

The Commission on Government Reform and Restructuring was established by Governor McDonnell immediately after taking office in January 2010. The mission of the Commission was to:

  • Identify opportunities for creating efficiencies in state government including streamlining, consolidating, or eliminating redundant and unnecessary agency services, governing bodies, regulations and programs;
  • Explore innovative ways to deliver state services at the lowest cost and best value to taxpayers;
  • Seek out means to more effectively and efficiently perform core state functions, including potential privatization of government operations, and restore focus on core mission oriented service; and
  • Examine ways for state government to be more transparent, user-friendly and accountable.

In May 2010, Governor McDonnell selected twenty citizen members from Virginia's private sector, academia, local government, and prior state government service to serve on the Commission. The Commission also included eight sitting state legislators representing both chambers and political parties. McDonnell named Fred Malek as the Commission's Chairman, with Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates William J. Howell and former Virginia State Senator Benjamin Lambert III serving as Commission Vice Chairs.

The Commission said it plans to reconvene in Spring 2011 and deliver additional reports and recommendations throughout the McDonnell administration. A listing of key recommendations can be found at GovWin's Analyst Perspectives real-time blog. (Subscription to GovWin State & Local Industry Analysis required.)

$8 Billion WSCA Wireless Services Solicitation Released

The state of Nevada, on behalf of the Western States Contracting Alliance (WSCA) and other authorized users (including 38 states), released a request for proposals (RFP) for wireless communication services and equipment on February 3, 2011. A pre-proposal conference will be held at 1:00 p.m. local time on February 23, 2011 at the Trump International Towers, Las Vegas, NV. Proposals will be accepted until 2:00 p.m. local time on March 28, 2011.

According to WSCA, incumbent wireless contract spend by the 38 participating states is in excess of $2 billion per year. GovWin anticipates the four-year, multivendor contracts will total approximately $8 billion over their four year contract life.

For those not familiar with WSCA, they are a part of the National Association of State Procurement Officials (NASPO) and was originally established in 1993 to combine the buying power of 13 western US states in establishing cooperative contracts. The WSCA Wireless contracts and the WSCA PC contracts have turned into hugely popular contracts within state and local level governments, combining for total spending volume of near $4 Billion per year.

For additional information on WSCA, please visit its website. For more information on the solicitation and procurement of these services, please visit GovWin's research on this project.

GovWin Pulse: Justice, Public Safety and Homeland Security January Review

As expected, 2011 procurement activity kicked off to a slow start as many agencies geared for the new year through planning efforts. January was also a bit lackluster because no grant guidelines for 2011 have been released, and state and local agencies have not applied for federal funding for their technology projects. However, GovWin's justice and public safety team was still hard at work. We released a blog series outlining GovWin's top opportunities for 2011 in each technology vertical. In case you missed it, go to GovWin's blog.

Events: GovWin released its State & Local Justice/Public Safety and Homeland Security Market, 2010-2015 report, which analyzes the trends for police protection, corrections, and judicial IT as well as homeland security. Demand for vendor-furnished information systems and services by U.S. state and local public safety agencies will increase from $5.3 billion in 2010 to $6.1 billion in 2015, bringing $800 million in new spending to the market at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 2.9%.

From January 6-7, 2011, the Integrated Justice Information Systems (IJIS) Institute held its winter briefing, at which one of our GovWin team members gave a presentation on public safety spending for FY 2011. The event gathered more than 300 industry partners from all areas of public safety, including the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Law Enforcement Sharing Initiative in the Department of Homeland Security, and a panel on improving procurement practices for technology projects. The full recap can be found here.

Closing out the month, the Federal Communications Commission held its VHF/UHF Narrowbanding Workshop on January 26, 2011. In conjunction with launching its narrowbanding mandate-centric website, the workshop was held to assist licensees with information regarding the narrowbanding transition path, and included GovWin from federal agencies, equipment manufacturers, and public safety organizations to ensure compliance with all state and local agencies. For an overview of the workshop, go here. For GovWin's in-depth analyst recap, click here.

Projects: The Tennessee Emergency Communications Board awarded its next generation 911 (NG911) project to Telecommunications Systems, Inc. for a five-year contract totaling $15 million. GovWin began tracking this opportunity in 2008 based on a conversation with the director of E-911 technical services. The solicitation was released in September 2010 and took approximately four months to award. Telecommunications Systems, Inc. is in charge of managing and organizing routine maintenance throughout the state's public safety answering point locations.

The Maine State Police is finalizing an award for its computer aided dispatch to Xwave. A finalized contract value has not been released yet, but the contract duration is two years. The state received $5.8 million in Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant funding for interoperable communications. The solicitation was released March 2010 and took approximately 10 months to award. The system will be used by the Maine State Police, fire marshals, the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, and the warden service. The original system was a Motorola Printrak CAD system installed in 2002.

Earlier this month, GovWin came across an interesting situation in Connecticut. After issuing and canceling a request for proposals (RFP) for next generation 911 in 2010, the Connecticut Department of Public Safety reignited the project by issuing a request for information (RFI) after realizing NG911 is a necessity. GovWin blogged on this topic and highlighted the usefulness of consultants or RFIs as a first step to IT projects. The piece received some acclaim from Government Computer News for our timely reporting on the project.

Future: In line with January's slow industry movement, GovWin expects lots of RFP releases in February and March to close out Q1 2011 strong. In the coming months, GovWin will also continue to check for further information regarding the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security grant programs as funding is approved. This week, one of our analysts is attending the Western States APCO Conference in Ontario, California, and will be presenting a report titled "911 Communication Grants: A Comprehensive Overview." Please track him down and say hello if you are there.

2011 NCSEA Policy Forum Recap

From January 24-26, 2011, GovWin attended the National Child Support Enforcement Association (NCSEA) Policy Forum on Capitol Hill in downtown Washington, D.C. The forum allows the opportunity for policy makers from different disciplines to discuss and collaborate on innovative ideas and solutions for the nation's child support program. The program has not been immune to the current economic hardships that states are facing, and is now struggling with new leadership changes that could stall innovative projects. The success of the child support enforcement system depends on non-custodial parents, or NCPs (typically low-income fathers), making child support payments. Low-income men have a hard enough time paying support as it is, let alone suffering increasing numbers of unemployment. Ron Haskins, senior fellow and co-director of the Center of Children and Families, Brooking Institute, said that only one in five women who fall in the bottom income distribution receive child support payments, with the average equaling $670 a year. This situation in Texas led to the NCP Choices program, which calls for integration between the Texas Office of the Attorney General (OAG), Texas Workforce Commission, and the local courts. Choices places NCPs into workforce education programs instead of behind bars. Choices utilizes the Choices online tracking system (COLTS), a Web-based program that allows departments to share information with each other to track participation. Eight out of ten NCPs typically enter into employment eight weeks after joining the program.

Federal initiatives affecting the child support program include the Affordable Care Act, which mandates health insurance for every American citizen. The child support program was already required to secure health insurance for children within the child support family, but increased Medicaid eligibility in the coming years may strain the child support program (as most NCPs will be eligible, if not already, for Medicaid). The program must work with Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to ensure smooth, efficient enrollment.

The theme of the forum (and one could argue should be applied to any human services program) is the need for departments across the board to provide streamlined, client-centric services that break down impeding siloed systems. Vendors need to recognize that decreased funding and increased citizen need is the new norm, and that child support solutions need to be adaptable, more efficient, and interoperable. Hansell said that we need to "come to grips with how human needs manifest themselves in human life," which translates to the idea that daily life spills over program lines. Current government structures are not designed to handle benefit delivery in this way. Most conference attendees seemed to agree that all levels of government need to double their efforts to ensure child support efforts succeed. The program plays one of the major roles in decreasing child poverty, which is vital to low-income families in such hard, economic times.

The 2011 NCSEA Policy Forum analyst recap can be found here.

Cell phones in prisons: A problem that is not going away

Earlier this week, convicted murderer Charles Manson was caught with a cell phone he had smuggled into his California jail cell. Manson was also caught in 2009 using a phone in prison. Following this most recent incident, the California Legislature is considering a bill that would make possession of a phone in prison illegal and carry punishments such as loss of credit for time served as well as added jail time for using a phone to facilitate crimes. In July 2009, 25 states filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to authorize the use of commercial mobile radio service (CMRS) jamming equipment in order to prevent the unauthorized use of cell phones in prisons. Later that year, the U.S Senate passed the Safe Prisons Communications Act, but the bill was eventually dropped and never signed into law. It is essential for this law to be revived and passed in order to truly prevent the use of cell phones in prisons.

The question that begs answering is whether or not the FCC and states, particularly the 25 cosigners of the initial petition, will begin to work together in order to move toward a solution for this growing problem. During 2010 alone, California confiscated more than 10,000 cell phones, which also leads to safety issues outside prison facilities. It will be difficult to fully stop the smuggling of phones by guards and other individuals, so the next logical step would be to make those cell phones useless through signal jamming.

GovWin last reported on the usage of cell phones in prisons in September 2010, when several states started looking at strategies to combat their state's problems. California issued a request for information for cell phone interdiction, but no decisions have been made regarding how to proceed. Many more states may have high interest in acquiring their own systems, but without legislation or true direction from the FCC, little may be done in the near future.

GovWin's Take:

In order for something concrete such as laws or regulations to be established, the FCC needs to reach out to state correctional agencies (or vice versa) and develop a task force or committee that can begin to develop a national strategy for this national problem. With the number of smuggled cell phones on the rise, drastic action is needed. In addition, Congress must step in and revisit the previous bill or craft a new one to allow vendors and agencies to begin teaming on new methods of detection.

Outside of state and local governments and the FCC, vendors can also play a part in helping the situation. Vendors with the means to develop, or have already developed, jamming technologies should look to state correctional agencies and assist in lobbying for legislation to authorize jamming solutions. Teaming with state and local governments to develop partnerships is always useful, and in this particular case, could stop a dangerous practice across the country.

The FCC's VHF/UHF Narrowbanding Workshop Overview

The GovWin justice and public safety/homeland security team attended the Federal Communications Commission's VHF/UHF Narrowbanding Workshop in Washington, D.C. on January 26, 2011. Perhaps overshadowed by the blizzard that swept through the nation's capital, the goal of the workshop was to suggest tools and resources to complete the FCC's narrowbanding requirements by the January 1, 2013 deadline. Though the event was cut short due to the federal government's early dismissal, the two panels held offered valuable information and interesting opinions regarding the narrowbanding deadline. One of the themes throughout the workshop was the FCC's insistence on compliance. The commission will not be extending the 2013 deadline, and there will be penalties if an agency violates the deadline. The FCC also warned against relying on a waiver of the deadline and explained that requests are not routinely granted. Willful noncompliance will be viewed unfavorably; therefore, agencies were recommended to focus on narrowbanding their system sooner than later.

One major question asked during the workshop was exactly how many state and local agencies are truly capable of meeting the FCC's narrowband requirement. Many panelists offered their estimated figure, but the general consensus was that a major chunk of state and local agencies still have a lot of work ahead of them.

Overall, the two panels had some good suggestions, but described many of the problems and challenges voiced in the past. It is important that state and local agencies work quickly to meet the narrowbanding deadline, and the FCC has recognized this by launching a narrowbanding-centric website. The two panels also touched on plans for when the narrowbanding mandate is complete. The 6.25 MHz date will not be established for a number of years. A board will have to propose the schedule, which will take a good amount of planning before any future deadlines are established. The FCC also explained a few misconceptions regarding narrowbanding and the mandate. An agency does not have to move to a digital system for the narrowbanding requirement, and there will not be twice the channels once an agency has narrowbanded. As for the benefits of the mandate, unfortunately, both panels were pretty quiet. The main motivation for the mandate is to clean up the spectrum.

GovWin's Take

The conference seemed to include a lot of repetition regarding the challenges and obstacles to narrowbanding; things that GovWin has heard to a fault. But the conference also included some important resource information that could potentially assist in narrowbanding compliance for state and local agencies. Ultimately, many state and local agencies still have work to do before the January 1, 2013 deadline, which translates into opportunities for the government contractor community. GovWin estimates that there will be a steady stream of narrowbanding projects all the way up to the 2013 deadline. However, state and local agencies are still having a tough time securing funding for their narrowbanding projects, so be on the lookout as federal grants are approved for an indication of project status.

For GovWin's in-depth analyst recap, click here.

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