The DHS inspector general released a report two days ago entitled “Review of DHSâ€™ Progress in Adopting and Enforcing Equipment Standards for First Responders.” The report looks at the office within the S&T directorate that is responsible for establishing standards, and reviews the office’s slow progress in developing and implementing a standards-setting process for first responder equipment. The report notes progress in developing standards in a few areas, but nothing that resembles a broad approach. It also comments on the fact that no new standards since February 2004.
The report provides four reasons why S&T has been scant success in driving forward a standards-setting for first responder equipment, noting that S&T…
- Does not accurately track the status of standards being considered for adoption,
- Has inadequate performance measures to establish timelines for completion of its standards adoption process,
- Has no regulatory authority to compel first responders to purchase equipment that conforms to S&T standards. Therefore, it must rely on DHSâ€™ Office for Domestic Preparedness (ODP) to ensure, through management activities related to ODPâ€™s grants, that first responders procure equipment that conforms to S&T-adopted standards, and
- Is not consistently advising ODP on which categories of equipment conform to its standards.
And it makes six recommendations about what DHS can do to improve the standards-setting process:
To improve the process for adopting and ensuring compliance with equipment and communication interoperability standards for first responders, we are making four recommendations to the Under Secretary for Science and Technology to (1) ensure that the S&T standards database accurately captures all relevant data necessary for tracking the status of standards being considered for adoption; (2) determine methods by which the time required to adopt standards can be accelerated; (3) establish quantifiable performance measures to achieve more timely adoption of standards; and, (4) evaluate the DHS-sponsored equipment listings so that they conform to currently applicable S&T standards. Two recommendations are directed for the action of the Under Secretary for Preparedness, to (1) reference DHS informational resources for equipment in all ODP grant guidance disseminated to first responder recipients and (2) mandate that all equipment purchased by first responders, using ODP grant funds, complies with corresponding standards adopted by S&T.
DHS needs to address these recommendations if it is going to maximize the interoperability of first responders in a crisis and ensure that homeland security grant funds are not wasted.