- EnactedJuly 6th, 2015The President signed this bill into law
- The senate Passed June 11th, 2015Passed by Voice Vote
Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
- senate Committees
- The house Passed February 3rd, 2015Roll Call Vote 379 Yea / 0 Nay
Emergency Preparedness, Response, and RecoveryCommittee on Homeland SecurityIntroducedJanuary 28th, 2015
- house Committees
What is House Bill H.R. 615?
This bill would require that all agencies under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), within 120 days of the bill’s enactment, create a strategy to improve communication between DHS agencies.
This covers all "interoperable communications" — i.e. radio communications systems that facilitate the exchange voice, data, and video in real time. This communication can be for anything from reporting on acts of terrorism, daily operations, scheduling events, and of course, emergencies.
Progress would be monitored by mandatory reports to Congress after 220 days after enactment, and biannually thereafter.
The bill impacts Congress's ability to know if DHS agencies are Chatty Cathys or Nervous Nellies. Also, all federal employees in the DHS, and the Under Secretary of the DHS.
Cost of House Bill H.R. 615
The CBO cost estimate is unavailable. However, an estimate from the CBO of the bill's previous version (H.R. 4289) found that implementation would have no impact on the federal budget.
Sponsoring Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ) has noted that the motivation behind this bill is a disgust with how funds were being used to improve "interoperable communications" with little to show for it:
"According to Payne’s office, 'Since September 11, 2001, the federal government has spent more than $13 billion on efforts to achieve interoperable communications. Further, according to a November 2012 Inspector General Report, DHS has invested over $430 million into communications capabilities for its 123,000 radio users since 2003, but department ‘personnel do not have reliable interoperable communications for daily operations, planned events, and emergencies.’ In a May 7, 2012 hearing before the committee, DHS Inspector General John Roth confirmed the failure by testifying that 479 DHS field radio users were asked to get on and use a specified channel to communicate, however, only 1 of those 479 radio users could get on the common channel.'"
Sponsoring Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ) Press Release (Previous Bill Version)
CBO Cost Estimate (Previous Bill Version)
Department of Homeland Security Interoperable Communications
To amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to require the Under Secretary for Management of the Department of Homeland Security to take administrative action to achieve and maintain interoperable communications capabilities among the components of the Department of Homeland Security, and for other purposes.
If DHS hired employees who cannot communicate, then fire the employee plus the the HR personal who hired the employee. Only hire employees who speak English. Communication only can occur when both parties speak a common language. Bilingual is great when your at home or with family, but a common language is paramount. I'm sure the French or Germans have language proficiency standards. The story of the Tower of Babel would be a learning point.
When I first read this I thought it was referring to employees not performing. I then read the summary and was left wondering. Finally I read the "in depth" and now it sounds like an equipment issue. We have spent millions since 2001 and haven't fixed the problem. Whether it's poor employees, poor training or poor equipment it boils down to incompetence. Do we really need a bill to straighten this out? No wonder government is so messed up.