Many technology-related safety enhancements are planned with new federal funding

The new federal budget – the one proposed for 2024 – requests $74 billion to upgrade government technology. This reflects a 13% increase over the amount of federal money allocated for technology in 2023. The allocation is long overdue. In fact, it is almost impossible for public entities to manage mandates with the outdated technology they all have.

If passed, the new federal spending plan will send more than $10 billion through the Department of Health and Human Services; $9 billion through the Department of Homeland Security; $7 billion through the Department of the Treasury; and $4.8 billion through the Department of Justice—all of which is geared for technology. Many of the technology resulting upgrades will allow government leaders to detect, respond to, and recover from emergency events, cyber breaches and related threats to critical infrastructure.

Even as the 2024 budget awaits approval from Congress, federal agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will be disbursing funds regularly to help public agencies and institutions upgrade their emergency management resources. In April, the DHS’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) began reviewing applications for $89 million in 2023 funding that will soon be disbursed through its Emergency Operations Center Grant Program.

FEMA is also accepting applications for shares of $355 million in funding from its Emergency Management Performance Grant Program. And by September 30, 2023, the agency plans to award a combined $233 million to congressionally directed projects—many of which revolve around planned technology acquisitions—through its Pre-Disaster Mitigation program.

Photo courtesy of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency

Congress is also encouraging greater investment in these technologies. In late March 2023, lawmakers introduced the Next Generation 9-1-1 Act which authorizes $15 billion in federal funding for a new grant program to support wider deployment of upgraded, digital-first 911 systems. If the legislation is approved, funding will be allocated through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to state governments.
The prospective influx of federal money for technology upgrades will benefit all citizens who depend on government for public safety, citizen services and more. State and local officials are prioritizing their technology investments now.

When a tornado tore through Andover, Kan., last year, it put the city’s 911 system out of service and left first responders scrambling to adapt. On the one-year anniversary of the disaster, the city announced that funding is available now to mitigate the risk of a similar occurrence and a modernized 911 system with modern technology features will be purchased. Local officials will begin the procurement process soon to have a new system set up and running by the end of 2024.

In Springfield, Mass., the city’s police and fire departments currently operate on separate CAD systems. Communication gaps between first responders result in slower emergency responses. To address the issue, the city’s budget for 2024 includes a new $3.4 million capital outlay for a unified CAD system. The new system will foster improved coordination, improve call processing and streamlined reporting of information during emergencies. Local officials say acquisition and implementation will be completed in 2024.

The California Highway Patrol is requesting information from potential contractors related to a cloud-based CAD system that can interface with mobile application software. Responses to the request for information (RFI), which are due in early July, will guide how the new technology is implemented across its statewide network of communications centers, mobile command centers and additional support facilities. In addition to procurement of new hardware and software, the full scope of work will also include integration, installation, training and system testing.

Local leaders in San Diego have passed an ordinance that authorizes additional funding for new surveillance technology. The crime prevention measure will also address how the city plans to use new technology assets without impacting privacy issues. Planned purchases of automated license plate readers and smart streetlight cameras will be included and a committee will be established to provide input to the city’s privacy advisory board. The $4 million acquisition and installation of upgraded surveillance technology will be a “force multiplier” for the San Diego Police Department as the division struggles with staffing shortages.

Two federal earmarks are requested for new technology assets to reduce violent crime and improve transportation safety in the city of Alexandria, Va. A requested $670,000 will be used to purchase new in-car cameras, automated license plate readers and surveillance trailers—all of which will allow local law enforcement to be more responsive to incidents of crime. Another $1 million earmark is requested for smart mobility technologies to help manage traffic. The funding will allow for acquisition of smart intersection controls, enhanced roadway lighting and data monitoring assets which will be used for planning.

Recently the Georgia Department of Transportation began reviewing responses to its RFI for road sign detection technology. Officials with the department will use the input to determine costs and priorities for future solicitations. The agency wants new technology that will register information from road signs and interface with individual motorists to notify drivers of emerging traffic patterns and upcoming roadway hazards.

Transit officials in Maryland have also issued an RFI for technology that will mitigate transportation-related risks to safety. The outreach to potential contractors marks the beginning of a project to upgrade signaling control technology for a light rail link in Baltimore. The objective will be to integrate Baltimore city traffic controllers and existing transportation infrastructure assets. The enhancements will be designed to improve coordination and reduce threats to safety that extend from sudden, unexpected disruptions in traffic. The state transit administration plans to issue a solicitation when the planning is complete.

The city of St. Cloud, Minn’s plan to construct a new public safety center includes funding for emergency management technology. In addition to the millions of dollars the city will spend on the new facility, approximately $300,000 is available to purchase safety technology. The city’s 2024 capital budget authorizes funding for the project as well as the technology, and the project is scheduled to launch when planning has been completed