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Homeland security department to begin certifying anti-terrorism technologies.

The Department of Homeland Security plans to begin certifying Qualified Anti-Terrorism Technologies later this month, giving those products and services limited protection from liability lawsuits.

A Web page at the department's site, www.dhs.gov, will be set up to accept applications, said Jane Alexander, deputy director of the Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The law creating the department included provisions of the SAFETY Act, which is designed to limit liability for certified technologies when they are used by federal, state or local agencies or private-sector customers. The DHS certification amounts to a sort of "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval," insulating a company from liability if its product failed to protect against a terrorist attack, as long as the company was not negligent.

The Institute for Defense Analysis will establish panels to conduct technical evaluations for certification.

The department has announced a series of seminars to explain the application process. (See box, p. 5.)

The department published a proposed rule July 11 to implement the SAFETY Act. (SAA, 7/25) An interim rule is expected shortly.

Alexander said HSARPA will release more broad agency announcements requesting proposals for cutting-edge technologies that can be deployed within six to 18 months. The first announcement drew more than 3,300 proposals. (SAA, 8/22)

In addition, she said DHS will issue calls for proposals under its Small Business Innovation Research program this fall. Two rounds of proposals are planned for fiscal 2004.

Alexander spoke Sept. 10 at a Washington conference sponsored by Defense News. At the same conference, DHS's chief procurement officer, Greg Rothwell, said the department's component agencies will continue to conduct procurements in the same way as they did before the new department was established last March.

Eight of the largest DHS components--including the Transportation Security Administration, Coast Guard and Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement--had their own procurement shops. But Rothwell said the other 14 agencies relied on their former departments for procurement and will likely continue to do so through the end of fiscal '04.

He said his goal is to set up an automated procurement system to serve the entire department. Until that is done, Rothwell said his office will monitor individual agencies to guard against redundant purchases. The Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency--pronounced "H-SARPA" in government-speak--is modeled after the similarly named defense R&D agency, but Alexander said there are important differences.

While DARPA concentrates on long-range. "revolutionary" technologies, she said, HSARPA is likely to spend more than 90% of its budget on technologies to meet specific needs, such as protection against biological attacks, rather than on ground-breaking research.

Another difference from DARPA: affordability is a key criterion in HSARPA technologies, because the end users of those technologies are often state and local first responders, including small-town police departments and volunteer fire departments. "If it's not affordable, they're not going to buy it," she said.

HSARPA's broad agency announcements will ask for a five-to- 10 page white paper to describe a company's product or service. Alexander said that first submission should explain "the kernel of the idea." Those that are selected for further review will be asked to submit a fuller proposal.

The department announced that David Bolka will be HSARPA's first director. He is a former Lucent Technology executive and a retired Navy officer.

The Homeland Security Department has set four seminars to explain how to apply for certification under the SAFETY Act:

* Sept. 22 in Dallas

* Sept. 23 in Los Angeles

* Sept. 24 in Atlanta

* Sept. 26 in Chicago.

Advance registration is required. For more information or to register, call 301-975-8933 or visit http://www.dhs.gov and click on the "Threats & Protection" link at the top of the page.
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Publication:Set-Aside Alert
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 19, 2003
Words:617
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