Project 25 Letter Sent to FEMA


Authors: SAFECOM and National Council of Statewide Interoperability Coordinators Chairs

On August 11, 2016, SAFECOM and the National Council of Interoperability Coordinators (NCSWIC) sent a letter to Brian E. Kamoie, Assistant Administrator for the Grant Programs Directorate (GPD) at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), providing recommendations for strengthening grantee compliance with P25 standards.

Currently, the annual SAFECOM Guidance on Emergency Communications Grants (SAFECOM Guidance) allows grantees to submit written justification for non-standards purchases, when needed. SAFECOM and NCSWIC believe this clause creates a loophole for state and local agencies to purchase non-standard equipment, hindering interoperability. Thus, SAFECOM and NCSWIC proposed the following recommendations in the letter for establishing stronger P25 compliance standards:

  1. SAFECOM and NCSWIC recommend compliance with P25 standards be required for all grantees and the language in the 2017 SAFECOM Guidance should reflect that requirement (i.e., change “should comply” to “must comply”).
  2. SAFECOM and NCSWIC recommend FEMA grant staff and grant reviewers be trained and educated to identify P25 and non-P25 equipment and provided a list of P25 compliant equipment; such a list should be similar to the list developed by the Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) Program (see: Grant Eligible Equipment List), to ensure equipment purchased with federal grant dollars is P25 compliant. 
  3. SAFECOM and NCSWIC recommend FEMA remind State Administrative Agencies (SAA) of these standards-related requirements, and encourage states to appoint a single point of contact (e.g., the Statewide Interoperability Coordinator [SWIC]) to review communications projects submitted for funding to ensure compliance with the technical standards in the SAFECOM Guidance (a best practice).

The SAFECOM and NCSWIC Funding and Sustainment Committee have been tracking federal efforts to support emergency communications, and appreciate the role FEMA and other federal granting agencies play in supporting state and local public safety communications. The members of SAFECOM and NCSWIC offer their technical expertise and assistance to FEMA, as well as other federal, state, and local program managers to ensure federal purchases are P25 compliant, and to ensure waiver criteria is the same across all federal grant programs.    

SAFECOM and NCSWIC are eager to work with federal agencies, federal coordinating bodies focused on grants (e.g., Emergency Communications Preparedness Center Grants Focus Group), and state-level representatives (e.g., State Administrative Agencies) to promote P25 requirements and these recommendations in an effort to advance interoperability in every state and across the Nation.

For further assistance in understanding P25 standards and requirements, see the 2016 SAFECOM Grant Guidance and the P25 for Project Managers white paper, posted to the SAFECOM funding page at: https://www.dhs.gov/safecom/funding

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