Peters and Kennedy Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Improve Federal Government’s Response to Emergencies

WASHINGTON, D.C. –   U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and John Kennedy (R-LA) introduced bipartisan legislation to repeal an outdated section of the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006 (PKEMRA) to ensure uninterrupted support to disaster survivors following an emergency and improve the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) ability to respond to emergencies. Current law limits the duration of non-competitive emergency contracts for DHS and FEMA, which are tasked with coordinating emergency response efforts, while other federal agencies follow more recently updated changes to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). The senators’ bill would repeal this outdated section of the law to align the deadlines for DHS emergency contracts with the deadlines the rest of the government already follows, removing roadblocks to getting support to communities in need.

“When emergencies and disasters strike, the federal government should have all the tools at its disposal to help Americans in need,” said Senator Peters. “This bipartisan bill will ensure DHS is efficiently and effectively responding to emergencies.”

“Louisiana is no stranger to natural disasters, and Louisianians depend on the local, state and federal government for help when the unthinkable happens. Private businesses also work hand-in-hand with government partners to help Louisiana communities recover from natural disasters. Repealing an outdated portion of the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act that unnecessarily limits recovery efforts will allow the private sector and the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency to more effectively help our people for the long haul,” said Senator Kennedy.

“The National Emergency Management Association applauds the leadership of Senators Peters and Kennedy in simplifying DHS contracting requirements through S. 3648, the Helping Eliminate Limitations for Prompt Response and Recovery Act. This bill will modernize contracting requirements for DHS and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and align them with the less restrictive requirements applied to all other government agencies. Especially when responding to disasters, speed is of the essence, so it is imperative to give FEMA the tools necessary to be efficient and responsive when needed most,” said Russ Strickland, NEMA President and Secretary of Maryland Department of Emergency Management.

Section 695 of the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006 (PKEMRA) has been overcome by more recent Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) changes that apply government wide. Section 695 restricts the length of non-competitive DHS contracts for urgent and compelling requirements to 150 days. However, the FAR now limits these non-competitive contracts to one year, based on section 862 of the FY 2009 National Defense Authorization Act, rendering Section 695 obsolete.

The bipartisan Helping Eliminate Limitations for Prompt Response and Recovery Act would clean up inconsistent requirements by repealing Section 695, which applies only to DHS, and would improve the department’s ability to respond to emergencies. Once the bill is enacted, DHS would follow current government-wide rules in the FAR on length of emergency response and recovery contracts. The purpose of the FAR is to have consistency in government contracting, while maintaining integrity in the process and ensuring timely delivery of best value products and services to agencies and the public.