House budget legislation includes $10 billion in federal NG911 funding
Proposed budget-reconciliation legislation introduced in the U.S. House calls for $10 billion in federal funding to support implementing IP-based next-generation 911 (NG911) in the United States during the next four years, according to language in the massive multi-trillion-dollar budget-reconciliation proposal.
Grant money would be available to support eligible entities “implementing [NG911], operating and maintaining [NG911], training related to implementing, maintaining and operating [NG911], … and planning and implementation activities,” according to legislative text released on Thursday.
In addition to the $10 billion for the NG911 grant program, the legislation calls for $80 million to be spent to establish a Next Generation 911 Cybersecurity Center that would “coordinate with state, local and regional governments on the sharing of cybersecurity information about, the analysis of cybersecurity threats to, and guidelines for strategies to detect and prevent cybersecurity intrusions relating to next-generation 911.”
Another $20 million would be appropriated to establish a 16-member Public Safety Next Generation 911 Advisory Board to provide recommendations about NG911 and implementation of the proposed grant program.
Various media outlets have reported that the overall spending package in the budget-reconciliation plan totals $3.5 trillion, but some Beltway sources have said that figure probably will have to reduced—perhaps by $1 billion or more—to gain the political support necessary to be approved by Congress.
Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee—chaired by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) are scheduled to conduct a markup hearing on Monday that is expected to include discussion of the NG911 funding proposal.
This language in the budget-reconciliation legislation marks the first time that NG911 funding has been mentioned in legislation since $15 billion for NG911 was proposed in a Democrat-led House infrastructure bill that was not approved. Subsequent infrastructure proposals from House Republicans, the White House and a bipartisan Senate group have not addressed NG911.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) pledged in April to reintroduce the “Next Generation 911 Act of 2019” that called for $12 billion in federal NG911 funding, but no standalone bill addressing NG911 has been introduced to date.
There is a consensus that the nation’s emergency communications centers (ECCs)—referenced as public-safety answering points (PSAPs) in the past—should migrate to the IP-based NG911 platform from the legacy technology that largely was developed 50 years ago. There also is agreement that significant federal funding is needed to deploy NG911 nationwide, so there is not a “patchwork quilt” of 911 capabilities throughout the U.S., based on resources and funding priorities.
But there have been disagreements about how this should be accomplished. Language supported by the Public Safety Next Generation 911 Coalition—a group of public-safety organizations that includes APCO that was established last year—was in the $15 billion NG911 funding proposal in the LIFT America Act, but officials for NENA, NASNA and iCERT have outlined aspects of that initiative that they find objectionable.
NG911 language in the budget-reconciliation legislation appears to avoid many of the more controversial language included in the LIFT America Act proposal, often not addressing the issues specifically.
Key organizations that have been debating the NG911 issue indicated their support of the NG911 funding language in the budget-reconciliation proposal.
“The Public Safety Next Generation 911 Coalition, which represents the leadership of many of America’s major law enforcement, fire service, emergency medical services, and public safety communications associations, is grateful for the tireless work which has been done on this legislation which will invest in emergency communications across the country,” the coalition said in a prepared statement provided to IWCE’s Urgent Communications.
“The Coalition will continue to work with all stakeholders to ensure this key advancement in critical infrastructure makes it to the finish line to improve emergency response for all Americans.”
NENA tweeted about the NG911 funding proposal in the budget-reconciliation legislation.
“NENA applauds the inclusion of $10 billion for NG911 in the budget reconciliation bill,” NENA stated on its Twitter account. “This money would enable a transformation of the nation’s 911 system into one that provides smarter, faster, more resilient emergency response. It’s time to upgrade America’s 911 system.”
NASNA President Kelli Merriweather also applauded the NG911 funding proposal in a prepared statement provided to IWCE’s Urgent Communications.
“By including critical NG911 funding, Congress has committed to support the nationwide deployment of advanced 911 emergency-response systems that will protect the public and secure our communities,” Merriweather said in the statement. “The hard work of Chairman Pallone and committee staff is appreciated by all of us in the 911 community. NASNA and the public safety community are excited and grateful for this commitment to NG911.
“It is fitting that the announcement of this funding opportunity comes on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Public safety is truly a bipartisan issue, and this action by Congress would create a framework that everyone can support. We sincerely hope that Congress will fully support the Committee’s recommendations.”
The budget-reconciliation proposal of $10 billion for NG911 is less than the $12 billion in Klobuchar’s previous legislation and one-third less than the $15 billion in the infrastructure proposal earlier this year, but it still would dwarf any previous funding provided by Congress for 911.
An E-911 funding measure was passed as a last-minute item before Congress recessed in 2004 that authorized as much as $1.25 billion in funds to enhance 911 over a five-year period, but the money was never appropriated.
That legislation did create what is now known as the National 911 Program office, which is housed within the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) at the U.S. Department of Transportation in a joint program with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) in the U.S. Department of Commerce.
The National 911 Program office has overseen the distribution of $115 million in grant funding for 911 that was included in the 2012 legislation that created FirstNet.
Many NG911 legislative efforts in previous years have proposed grant funding administered by the National 911 Program office, but that is not the case in the current budget-reconciliation proposal. Instead, the legislation calls for the $10 billion grant program to be administered by the “Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information,” which is also the NTIA administrator. Previously held by officials like Larry Strickling and David Redl, this post is now filled by Evelyn Remaley on an acting basis.
No more than 2% of the proposed $10 billion—a total $200 million—would be available to implement the grant program, according to the language in the budget-reconciliation legislation.