Deltek pulse: justice/public safety and homeland security December review

Published: January 04, 2013

Communications ServicesContract AwardsGrantsJustice/Public Safety & Homeland SecurityNG911Sequestration

The most common technologies and services procured across states and localities in December were fire alarm and suppression systems, security/cctv systems and 911 systems. The word cloud below provides a visual interpretation of key-term frequency.

  • 911 systems: 6 solicitations
  • Security/ CCTV systems: 19 solicitations
  • Fire Alarm or Suppression Systems: 19 solicitations

Public safety communications for cities and counties around the country hit a turning point in December. While there were numerous trends throughout 2012 – from an increase in the use of NG911 technologies, to public safety institutions beginning to use cloud-based options for computer-aided dispatch (CAD) records management systems (RMS) – one trend exceeded them all: narrowbanding.

December was the final month localities had to meet the FCC’s narrowbanding requirement or request waivers if they had no hope of doing so. Even those granted waivers were required to have concrete plans in place about how and when they expect to meet the deadline, and localities worked diligently to put those in place. Several localities announced plans to replace or upgrade their radio systems in the near future, and others made definitive decisions about how they would be moving forward with those projects. Fulton County, Ga., released an RFP on December 28 for its radio system, and Carroll County, Md., made the decision to move forward with its radio system without the aid of a consultant. Despite the passage of the narrowbanding deadline, many counties and cities will still be looking to upgrade their radio systems in the coming months and years, as a large number have not yet met the FCC’s requirements.   

Radio solicitations were not the only ones released in December; several states and larger localities also moved forward with large-scale projects that had been in the works. The city of Freemont, along with Dodge County, Nebraska, released an RFP for 911 call processing equipment. Massachusetts released an RFP for its electronic filing project two years after the RFI was issued. The state also released a solicitation for an inmate phone system for all facilities run by the state corrections department. 

Numerous requests for information for major projects were also released in December. Kansas released an RFI for E911 GIS for all of the state’s public safety answering points (PSAPs), and Vermont issued a statewide RFI for an automated vehicle locating system for the Department of Public Safety. 

The widespread release of solicitations highlights one of December’s main trends: increased clarity regarding the direction of projects. Across the county, it seems as though decisions were finally being made about how to proceed with projects. Florida finally canceled its initiative to develop a federated security plan after releasing an RFI in July 2011, and in Alaska, development of a solicitation for a case management system has officially begun. 

The last major trend of December involved, unsurprisingly, increased interest in emergency notification systems. After the devastating weather phenomenon experienced in 2012, from July’s derecho to Superstorm Sandy, localities are beginning to realize the importance of being able to contact citizens at a moment’s notice. The increase in electronic communications has underscored the need for communities such as Honolulu, Hawaii, and Illinois State University to branch out in how they communicate with citizens.

Analyst’s Take

Vendors should be on the lookout for more solicitation releases in the coming months. It is likely that departments will issue RFIs to gather budget information for projects they hope to pursue in the coming fiscal year, which begins for most states and localities on July 1. Many departments will also begin assembling their budget proposals if they have not done so already, and they will require a clear picture of expected costs. This may also be the reason for the rise in solicitations. Often, departments are required to use the funds they have been granted before the end of the fiscal year, or they risk losing them. By releasing RFPs now, it is likely that they are counting on being able to award them and sign a contract prior to the beginning of the fiscal year. 

Many local agencies are also taking the fiscal cliff and sequestration into account as they make decisions about what projects will move forward. While the fiscal cliff was averted earlier this week, the bill passed acted only as a stopgap measure, and sequestration is still very much a reality. Congress only has until March 1 to pass additional measures to keep sequestration from going into effect. Agencies are therefore likely to continue working quickly to utilize any federal grant money they were given for this year. Should sequestration take effect, this grant money may be reduced or eliminated completely; so many communities are seeking to upgrade systems now in anticipation of the reduction in funds that may come next year.

These factors help explain the increased clarity on whether projects will be moving forward, as it will be imperative for solicitations to be released in the next few months to ensure that localities have time to conduct a complete evaluation period prior to the end of the current budget cycle. For those working on larger, multiyear projects, or that are allowed to carry over funds, it is still likely that procurement and program officers will be looking to move forward with projects as soon as possible. Expect solicitations to be released sometime toward the end of Q1 or beginning of Q2 so that agencies will be ready to award projects once FY 13 funds become available in July.