Press Release of U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer

For Immediate Release:
June 29, 2006  
Contact:
Washington D.C. Office (202) 224-3553

Boxer Calls on Department of Commerce to Immediately Create Process for Awarding Communications Grants to America's First Responders  

Washington, D.C. - In light of the Senate Commerce Committee’s recent approval of language that would expedite the award of interoperable communications grants to first responders, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today urged Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez to quickly create a plan for awarding these grants.

Following please find Senator Boxer’s letter to Secretary Gutierrez:

June 29, 2006

The Honorable Carlos M. Gutierrez
Secretary
U.S. Department of Commerce
1401 Constitution Ave.
Washington, D.C. 20230

Dear Secretary Gutierrez:

Last week, the Senate Commerce Committee approved language in the communications reform bill that would expedite the award of interoperable communications grants from funds available starting October 1, 2006 from the upcoming spectrum auction. In anticipation of this bill becoming law, I request that the Department of Commerce begin work immediately to chart a process for awarding those grants.

There is an urgent need for funds for interoperability. As far back as the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, we have seen the problems faced by firefighters, law enforcement officers, medical personnel and other first responders who are not able to communicate when terrorists and natural disasters strike. These communications problems were unfortunately repeated at Oklahoma City in 1995, the World Trade Center in 2001, the California wildfires in 2003, and last year’s Hurricane Katrina.

My Senate colleagues and I have worked hard to make the new interoperability grants available to first responders as soon as possible. Your assistance is needed to ensure that they are ready for distribution on October 1. The pending legislation would transfer administrative authority for the grant program to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), so prior to passage of the bill, I urge you to direct the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information to work with his DHS counterparts to prepare to solicit and evaluate grant applications.

With proper preparation, the Administration should be ready to award the grants very quickly after the funds become available. Our nation’s first responders deserve assistance as soon as possible. Please take the initiative to make this happen.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Barbara Boxer
United States Senator