Today, H.R. 4289, the DHS Interoperable Communications Act, a bill Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10) introduced, unanimously passed through the House Committee on Homeland Security. The DHS Interoperable Communications Act would clarify the Undersecretary for Management's responsibilities related to communications systems at the Department by charging the Undersecretary with developing "policies and directives to achieve and maintain interoperable communications among the components of the Department."
Rep. Payne, Jr. said, "In the past year, we have had a number of teachable moments. From the Boston Marathon Bombings, to the Moore, Oklahoma tornados, to the shooting at LAX -- there are lessons to be learned about emergency communications from each incident. When our first responders face danger every single day, it is essential that they can communicate with one another. This bill is simple, straightforward, and it is an important step in achieving interoperable communications that will save the lives of our first responders and the people in harm's way."
The committee also accepted an amendment offered by Rep. Payne, Jr. to H.R. 4802, the Airport Security Enhancement Act of 2014, which was introduced in response to the Los Angeles Airport shooting on November 1, 2013. Following the incident, it was discovered that law enforcement could not communicate with emergency responders on the ground via interoperable radios. Rep. Payne, Jr.'s amendment requires the Administrator of TSA to conduct a review of the interoperable communications capabilities of the law enforcement, fire, and medical personnel responsible for responding to a security incident at airports across the nation, to help the committee understand where potential communications gaps still exist that may hamper emergency response at our airports.
"Once we understand the full scope of communications capabilities at each of our nation's airports, we can take targeted steps to enhance capacity nationwide by focusing on those airports where emergency responders still cannot communicate via interoperable radio," said Rep. Payne, Jr.