The U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved a bill that would provide $400 million in state grants during fiscal year 2006 to improve the resilience and compatibility of first-responder communications systems.

Introduced by committee chairman Susan Collins (R-Maine) and ranking member Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), S 1725 calls for grant funding increases during each of the next five years, reaching $1 billion in 2010. Overall, the Homeland Security Department would be authorized to earmark $3.3 billion for communications during the five-year period.

If enacted, the bill also would establish a new office within the Homeland Security Department focused on emergency communications, interoperability and compatibility. Currently, the department has a small interoperability office, but this legislation proposes a significant increase in funding and scope, said committee aide Leslie Phillips.