To all of those who may think FEMA and the Assistance to Firefighters Grant is one big sugar daddy with lots of money to give away, we have some news for you. Many applicants have completely ignored the standards and guidance pertaining to communications on the assumption that "they" are not going to enforce it, "I know because Billy Bob got away with breaking the rules, so they're not coming after me". Guess again!
The fact is that kindly old Uncle FEMA has a couple of rather significant cousins, notably the Department of Justice (DOJ) who provides oversight of FEMA's activities (and those who receive FEMA funding), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) who has responsibility for enforcement and prosecution of violators. Here's another bit of information. They have a LONG memory, which can be made even longer through the Subpoena process. And, for what it's worth; charges for fraud, deception, and misappropriation of funds are felonies! This isn't some little civil matter that goes away with the slap of the wrist. It is the same process that gave Bernie Madoff the opportunity to meet some new kids! So, what's the point?
The point is simply this - DHS, FEMA, and SAFECOM, along with DOJ, and the FBI agree that rules are rules, and here are the rules, plainly stated in the guidance that every applicant certifies that they have read when making an application for a communications equipment grant involving federal funds.
(1) All RADIOS will be be capable, when ordered, to operate in the digital mode in accord with current P25 standards, not "compliant", not upgradeable or convertible, or using a similar technical platform such as MotoTRBO, NXDN, Astro 25 or anything else other than P25, PERIOD! Click here for additional information.
(2) All RADIOS must be based on a common interoperable standard that will allow one brand of radio to talk to another brand of radio using a common P25 technical platform, PERIOD!
3) Maintenance of all RADIOS can NOT be used as an evaluation consideration that becomes the basis for selecting a sole source vendor with an exclusive third party service agency, PERIOD!
If the radios you intend to purchase, or HAVE purchased, or the system on which you intend to operate your radios violates one or more of the three considerations above, you could find yourself in a whole lot of trouble! Could we be wrong in our understanding of the aforementioned standards? Maybe, maybe not, but we can tell you this. The Wall Street Journal recently disclosed that the Department of Justice is cracking down on potential abusers of federal grant funded projects such as the Assistance to Firefighters program. We know of several agencies that are now being audited on applications going back to 2010, and at least one that has been handed over for a federal grand jury investigation.
If you are planning to file for AFG funding for communications equipment, we urge you to make sure that you address and resolve the three major issues above before submitting your application (Due on or before 5:00 PM EST,December 5, 2014. In the meantime, your may want to download and read DOJ Grant Oversight by clicking here. We think you'll find it interesting.
BTW, if you would like some good suggestions on what DOES meet the guidelines, click here. Good luck with your application! Let us know if we can be of assistance in any way.