June 19, 2008

Wyden Releases Hold After FEMA Announces NET Guard Pilot Program

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) today dropped his hold on the Administration's nomination of Harvey E. Johnson to become deputy administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Wyden took the action in response to the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) announcement late yesterday that $320,000 is available in Fiscal Year 2008 to pilot, test, and develop tools for the National Emergency Technology Guard (NET Guard) program.

"I am pleased that Secretary Chertoff has realized it's essential for American communities to be able to communicate after natural or manmade disasters and that private sector volunteers can play a critical role in this effort," said Wyden.

The idea of NET Guard was born in the aftermath of 9-11, when a number of communications and technology companies told Wyden they wanted to help New York City when it was attacked - and there was no system for using their volunteers. Then-Senator George Allen worked with Wyden to move on a bipartisan basis to support NET Guard to ensure that volunteers with technology expertise could be fully utilized in future crises. These teams of local volunteers with science and technology expertise will be vital in assisting communities in responding to attacks on communications networks, or recovering from natural disasters.

Congress authorized the establishment of NET Guard six years ago, in the Homeland Security Act of 2002. However, DHS failed to make any visible progress in implementing NET Guard as late as 2005, at which point Wyden met with Chertoff, who promised that the program would be funded and implemented. When Chertoff failed to follow through on his promises, Wyden placed a series of holds on Administration nominees to the department.

According to yesterday's announcement FEMA will award funds to four jurisdictions as part of the competitive pilot program.

"These pilots will allow DHS to improve and fine-tune NET Guard," said Wyden. "I look forward to working with the next Administration to roll out NET Guard nationally."

To be eligible to apply, local government applicants must be located in one of the 2008 DHS Urban Area Security Initiatives' jurisdictions, must have a Citizen Corps Council and programs supported by emergency management. Additional eligibility criteria are included in the solicitation. The announcement and application are available on the Internet at http://www.grants.gov. Applications must be received by 11:59 PM EST July 2, 2008.