Last week the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee published their report on S 1180, the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) Modernization Act. The report contains some interesting supporting information from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) as well as some background material on the existing IPAWS program.
The existing IPAWS system which this bill is trying to codify and update was initiated in response to the 2006 EO 13407 signed by President Bush. The Report identifies two GAO reports (GAO-09-834 and GAO-13-375) that identified some of the problems that this bill attempts to resolve. The Committee Report does explain that improvements have been made at FEMA in response to those reports, but notes:
“This legislation will further this progress and help address many of the other problems stakeholders, Congress, and GAO previously identified, including helping to ensure sufficient training for emergency alerting officials, increasing collaboration at all levels of government, and ensuring Congress’s important role of oversight.”
The CBO is required to evaluate the costs of proposed legislation. For this bill they expect that the costs of the IPAWS upgrades would increase the funding needs over the next three years from the current spending level of $12 Million to $13 Million per year.
The CBO letter report explains that many of the requirement of this bill are currently being pursued by FEMA, but there are some new requirements for the system. Those new requirements include (pg 6):
∙ Training state and local governments and other stakeholders to use the system;
∙ Conducting nationwide testing of the system every three years: and
∙ Ensuring that IPAWS can withstand terrorist attacks.
This bill was introduced by Sen. Johnson (R,WI) the Chair of the HSGAC. He has moved it expeditiously through his committee and I expect that it will make it to the floor, perhaps before the summer recess. It will almost certainly be passed under the unanimous consent provisions.
Two similar bills in the House, HR 1472 and HR 1738, are still pending publication of their respective Committee Reports. There is still the jurisdictional controversy that will have to be resolved by the House leadership before one of these bills makes it to the floor in the House. S 1180 would tend to support the House Homeland Security Committee’s claim to jurisdiction over the IPAWS oversight.