The5th meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Seniors, Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection was held on Thursday, October 6, 2005, at 1:10 PM, in Room 131 of the Capitol Annex.
Members:Representative Mike Weaver, Co-Chair; Senators Carroll Gibson, Denise Harper Angel, Vernie McGaha, Daniel Mongiardo, Joey Pendleton, Richard "Dick" Roeding, Dan Seum, Katie Stine, Jack Westwood, and Ken Winters; Representatives Sheldon E. Baugh, Carolyn Belcher, Tom Burch, James Carr, Bill Farmer, Mary Harper, Gerry Lynn, Fred Nesler, Tanya G. Pullin, Tom Riner, Steven Rudy, and Charles L. Siler.
Guests: John McGary, Speakers Office; Donna Collins, CHFS/DAS.
LRC Staff: Scott Varland, Mustapha Jammeh, Ashley Sanders, Clint Newman, and Jo Ann Paulin.
Co-Chair Representative Mike Weaver called the meeting to order and asked the secretary to call the Roll. A quorum was present.
Co-Chair Weaver made an announcement that the LRC Hurricane Relief Fund Project was in progress and a collection box was located near the door.
Co-Chair Weaver asked Representative Siler to lead everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance.
The Committee acted upon two resolutions to adjourn the meeting in loving memory and honor of two fallen heroes: Specialist Jason E. Ames and Sergeant Matthew L. Deckard. Senator McGaha moved adoption of the resolution relating to Specialist Jason E. Ames. Representative Farmer seconded, and the motion carried. Senator Westwood moved adoption of the resolution relating to Sergeant Matthew L. Deckard. Representative Siler seconded, and the motion carried unanimously.
Representative Pullin moved to approve the minutes of the September 1, 2005, meeting. Senator Pendleton seconded, and the motion carried.
Co-Chair Weaver said that in 1991 he was Senior Advisor to the Kentucky National Guard. At that time, the Guard was concerned about an earthquake along the New Madrid fault. The Guard put together a task force to study how to react to an emergency like an earthquake. The task force looked at how emergency management in the state of Kentucky and the Federal Emergency Management Agency could work together. The members also examined how command and control would work in an emergency, especially with regard to wireless interoperable communications. The task force concluded that wireless interoperability was a key issue. Co-Chair Weaver said that he hoped that Commissioner Inman's presentation would demonstrate that progress has been made since 1991.
Commissioner Mike Inman, Commonwealth Office of Technology (COT), gave a PowerPoint presentation. He was joined by Alecia Webb-Edgington, Executive Director of the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security (KOHS). Commissioner Inman also introduced Deputy Commissioner Mark Rutledge who for a number of years has worked for COT on wireless interoperability.
Mr. Inman said that KRS 11.5163 charges him with making an annual wireless interoperability report. In the course of his presentation, he would describe past accomplishments and plans for the future. He would also seek the Committee's support for upgrading the Kentucky Emergency Warning System (KEWS).
Mr. Inman said that from a communications standpoint, the Commonwealth has never been better prepared to face a natural or man made disaster. While much remains to be done, phenomenal progress has been made in wireless interoperabililty. Kentucky has the opportunity to lead the nation in wireless interoperability.
Mr. Inman explained how the 1974 tornadoes left a path of devastation in Kentucky. Governor Ford was unable to communicate with incident commanders, state or local first responders, or even with local governments. He ordered the creation of an emergency communications system in the form of the construction of 144 towers strategically located throughout the state. The towers were used for the Kentucky Emergency Warning System (KEWS) that was deployed in 1978 with a life expectancy of 10 years. KEWS was not state of the art, but it has served the state well. KEWS replaced commercial communications that often fail during an emergency.
Over the years, KEWS has become ever more important as more organizations have taken advantage of the system. These organizations include: Kentucky State Police, Kentucky Education Television, Department of Military Affairs, University of Kentucky, local Emergency Medical Services, etc.
Since digital communication has come along, KEWS has become inadequate for the volume and quality required for passing digital traffic. The KEWS technology is outdated. The General Assembly has provided $13 million in funding for the first phase of upgrading the KEWS microwave infrastructure backbone. Commissioner Inman asked for the Committee's support in obtaining an additional $13.8 million in funding for the second phase of the upgrade.
Commissioner Inman continued by saying that prior to September 11, 2001, there were a number of Kentucky efforts to promote wireless interoperability. After 9/11, Kentuckians intensified their efforts. Interoperable communications refers to the ability of public safety officials from one jurisdiction or agency to communicate with officials within their own jurisdiction or from another jurisdiction or agency while operating in support of one another. It means being able to do this without going to the extremes of mounting additional equipment on already over burdened cruisers and vehicles, or setting up special equipment at an incident scene. It means being able to move from one jurisdiction to another one seamlessly without having to retune or run the risk of loosing communications.
In 2003, the General Assembly passed HB 309 to establish the Kentucky Wireless Interoperability Executive Committee (KWIEC) and gave it the mission of achieving the goals of interoperable communications for the Commonwealth. It was attached to COT for administrative purposes. KWIEC uses carrots and sticks to promote wireless interoperability throughout the Commonwealth.
In 2005, KWIEC and the Commonwealth Office of Technology had five goals. First, comply with 2004 HB 226 by developing a template for the review and approval of project submission plans. Second, support a statewide wireless voice mutual aid plan. Third, pursue a strategic initiative for a statewide wireless data network. Fourth, support a tactical initiative to improve communications interoperability using a network voice gateway technology solution. Fifth, develop a network architecture that meets the national standard (P25) for statewide public safety voice communications systems. All of these goals were accomplished.
Commissioner Inman elaborated on the second goal. Public safety agencies across the Commonwealth primarily operate in three frequency bands. The mutual aid plan permits first responders throughout the Commonwealth to communicate with each other and the Kentucky State Police.
Ms. Alecia Webb-Edgington, the Executive Director of Kentucky Office of Homeland Security, also discussed the second goal. She said that she likes to consider the three frequency bands as three telephone lines (150, 450, and 800 MHz). The first thing you do is connect the lines so everyone can talk. In order to get the 150 to be able to talk with the 450, you use a Base Interface Module (BIM) card. With a BIM card, an individual may contact a State Police Post for the purposes of being patched through to another line. The patch will occur through a computer component. It will be a drop and drag component. As soon as it is done, the process will be seamless. You will never know there is a patch between the two.
Commissioner Inman elaborated on the third goal. KWIEC recognized that the Commonwealth needed a shared vision for a statewide public safety wireless data communication network. KWIEC created the Architecture and Standards Working Group to establish a vision for public safety wireless data interoperability. KWIEC has adopted some of the Group's recommendations and will soon consider more of them.
Commissioner Inman said that KWIEC had other accomplishments during 2005, including establishing partnerships to promote wireless interoperability, conducting wireless interoperability conferences, being selected by the federal government to participate in a First Responder Communications Pilot Project (SAFECOM), and creating the KWIEC Website.
Commissioner Inman concluded by saying that KWIEC and the Commonwealth Office of Technology have six goals for 2006. First, complete the statewide wireless data communications project. Second, complete the Mutual Aid Communication Interoperability Plan. Third, complete the Base Interface Module (BIM) Project to interconnect disparate radio systems using a network communications gateway solution. Fourth, pursue a strategic initiative for the exchange of wireless data among public safety agencies. Fifth, participate in the federal government's First Responder Interoperability Pilot Project (SAFECOM). Sixth, continue upgrading the Kentucky Emergency Warning System (KEWS).
Representative Burch asked Mr. Inman if there needed to be a certain number of KEWS towers in order for the KEWS system to work. Mr. Inman said yes. Representative Burch wanted to know how many would have to become inoperable before the system would not work at all. Mr. Inman explained there was a redundancy built into the towers, so if a tower drops out of the network then the signal reverses and goes the other way around the network.
Representative Burch stated that the point that he was trying to make was how many towers would have to knocked out before there would be no KEWS communication. Mr. Mark Rutledge, Deputy Commissioner for COT, said that there is redundancy throughout the infrastructure. That is the backbone or the primary core of which all communications travel. At the end point, it is feasible that you could loose a tower and you would loose local communications. Furthermore, he is hopeful that KEWS will be upgraded over the next 18 months.
Representative Burch asked if a terrorist decides to knock out a certain amount of towers in order to stop communication, how many will need to be shut down in order for them to succeed. Commissioner Inman said that it would depend on which towers were being taken out. If terrorists knocked out a tower in Western KY, that tower would probably be a branch off the main network. All you would loose is local communications. If terrorists knocked out a tower in the middle of the system, then the signal would simply pass another way to get past. There is a point in which the entire network would come down. Representative Burch wanted to know how often the towers are inspected. Mr. Rutledge said that the field staff visits each tower once a week.
Representative Burch stated that when Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast, most of their towers were knocked out. Mr. Inman said that the Louisiana system is not like Kentucky's system. Louisiana was using a commercial system, and it is difficult to compare the two. Representative Burch inquired if the KEWS towers could also be used for commercial business. Mr. Inman that Louisiana leases a commercial service. The Kentucky emergency system is state owned. Kentucky is not considering using KEWS for commercial purposes.
Representative Burch said that he did not want the Interim Joint Committee to get lulled into believing that "we are going to be safe."
Co-Chair Weaver said that if we have a New Madrid Fault earthquake or a terrorist attack, we are going to loose communication at the disaster's location, but we will probably maintain communication with the rest of the tower system throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky. This will lead to the sending of aid from the rest of Kentucky.
Representative Siler said that he was quite impressed with the KWIEC conferences. He asked if KWIEC plans to extend the program. Mr. Inman said that he hopes to extend the program to new groups. He does not have a funding source, but he hopes to provide information to new groups. In the series of conferences that just ended in September, there was a real demand from local government for help from the state.
Representative Farmer asked if the KEWS upgrade includes any kind of escalation for cost, because the $26.8 million estimate is well over two years old. He inquired if this was the 2006 cost or 2003 cost that is going to have to be adjusted for inflation and any other economic factor. Mr. Inman said that the RFI was done in 2004, and the design has been approved with a leading vendor. He will get the pricing in the next couple of weeks. He should know the cost before the legislature meets. There might be an adjustment, but he doesn't believe that the figure will move up or down.
Representative Baugh asked if everything is changed from analog to digital and if we are able to patch from one system to the other, is that opening the system up to hackers world-wide. Would analog hackers have to be fairly close to interfere but with digital can't they intercept world-wide? Commissioner Inman said that he is talking about a closed system. There is a limitation today on how many channels you can pass over the microwave system. Eventually it will be unlimited. Statewide communications would not be threatened as a result of this. One of the strategies of the wireless data initiative is that it is a more secure means of communications than voice communications.
Senator McGaha asked about connecting the lines together using a BIM card. Will local entities have to furnish some equipment to the state police, and how much money will they be responsible for? He also inquired if this would be an impediment to local entities fulfilling their end of the obligation. Executive Director Webb-Edgington said that KWIEC and COT have asked locals to provide a spare radio to the project. That radio will then be hooked onto the system. Federal Homeland Security grants have provided partial funding for the project. She hopes that additional federal Homeland Security grants will provide for the purchase of programmable radios. These radios can handle up to 32 frequencies.
Mr. Inman said that he wants local government to buy into the BIM card solution. He doesn't want the State or the State Police to impose this solution on local governments. Some local governments have a little bit of an issue with people being on their frequency.
Representative Nesler said he hears quite a bit about "dead spots." He asked if this was going to be taken care of. Ms. Webb-Edington asked if this was being heard from local agencies or the Kentucky State Police. Representative Nesler said this was from both. He said that there are areas where an officer is unable to get help because of a communication problem. It is referred to as a dead spot. Commissioner Inman stated that if it is a local police problem then it is outside the jurisdiction of anything they are trying to do in terms of reception. COT allows locals to put their antennas on KEWS towers which are often the highest structures in a county. This increases coverage. However, local authorities have the responsibility to improve their own coverage area. The SAFECOM pilot project is intended to lead to blanketing the entire state with communications capabilities. Ms. Webb-Edington added that extensions are being built on several towers in Hickman and Fulton Counties. Mr. Inman said that won't help unless they hang an antenna on each of those towers. Representative Nesler said membership for these services is state government, county government, municipal government, local fire departments, county sheriff, and local 911 dispatch. Yet when you look at the current users you find KSP, KET, University of Kentucky, and the National Weather Service. This makes you wonder how they got above the local entities.
Ms. Edgington said that at Homeland Security they have provided funding in Western Kentucky to build towers. They will have their own towers to hang their own antennas on. There have been problems where someone has hung a device in front of an antenna.
Representative Weaver inquired about the 82 plans that were submitted to KWIEC, approved for local interoperability communications, and given approval to spend funds. Mr. Inman said that the authority to expend Homeland Security funds is with the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security. That Office has worked with KWIEC to develop a policy that basically ties the spending of Homeland Security interoperability money to the KWIEC committee. Representative Weaver said that he wanted to know if there were only 82 plans that KWIEC had supported. Mr. Inman said that this was not the total picture. There were 82 that have been finalized and approved. There are other plans that have not yet been finalized and approved.
Representative Weaver said that HB 309 established KWIEC and HB 226 enhanced KWIEC. He asked Commissioner Inman if additional legislation was necessary. Commissioner Inman said that no additional legislation was needed at the present time.
Representative Weaver asked Mr. Inman what was he referring to when he said that there would be 100% coverage by 2006. Mr. Inman said that the wireless data network would be deployed across the entire state. Representative Weaver asked if the 100% coverage was independent of the 144 towers changing to digital. Mr. Inman said that the wireless data network works with the old towers. However, it will work much more efficiently once the KEWS upgrade takes place.
Representative Weaver said the first SAFECOM meeting was on September 28 in Owsley County. There will be additional meetings in Paducah, Owensboro, Lexington, Louisville, Covington. A strategic planning session will occur on December 14.
Executive Director Webb-Edgington gave a presentation on Executive Order 2005-563 and Executive Order 2004-530. She asked the members to refer to their copies of the Executive Orders. Highlighting indicated language deleted from Executive Order 2004-530 and added to Executive Order 2005-563.
Executive Director Webb-Edgington explained that the insertion of the word "Kentucky" into any mention of the Office of Homeland Security allows the office to better identify itself when dealing with the US Department of Homeland Security and other state agencies. She said that the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security concerned with terrorism and other crimes and hazards. She said that KOHS serves as conduit to get information out to state and local agencies. KOHS also serves as a conduit for many federal Homeland Security grants. KOHS decides who receives the federal money. In November, she will discuss the KOHS annual report with the Committee. At some point, committee members may read in the paper that federal Homeland Security funding went directly to a first responder or other agency without passing through KOHS. Not all federal Homeland Security money passes through KOHS.
The 2005 Executive Order clarifies that KOHS is not a response agency but creates a strategy that response agencies implement. KOHS focuses on prevention.
She concluded by noting that on the last page of the 2005 Executive Order the Commercial Mobile Radio Service Emergency Telecommunications Board (CMRSET) is moved from the Commonwealth Office of Technology to the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security. This is the wireless 911 surcharge on cellular telephones.
Senator Roeding welcomed Executive Director Webb-Edgington. He said that he was concerned that Executive Order 2005-563 directs KOHS to publish certain sensitive information. He did not want broad publication of sensitive information that might help terrorists. Executive Director Webb-Edgington said that the sensitive information would be published for individuals with security credentials. Under the Open Records Law, as amended by HB 59, the sensitive information would not be released to the public.
Representative Weaver asked why the CMRSET Board was being moved from COT to KOHS. Mr. Inman said that the Board fit better with KOHS than with COT.
The next presenters were Ms. Alice Wilson, Audit Manager with the Auditor of Public Accounts and Adjutant General Major General Donald C. Storm. Ms. Wilson said that her agency audits agencies that receive federal funds from various federal departments. There are three types of findings in these audits. Material findings are the most severe and indicate that federal funds might be misappropriated or misspent. A reportable condition occurs when a program has guidelines in place that are not being followed. The other type of finding consists of other matters.
She continued by saying that federal guidelines require a state agency to monitor federal programs administered by that state agency. If a state agency passes federal funds on down to local government, that state agency has to monitor those funds to make sure that they are being spent in accordance with the federal program's requirements. This is called subrecipient monitoring, and this was the main problem with the Department of Military Affairs in FY 2004.
Representative Weaver asked if there were any serious findings in this audit. Ms. Wilson said that there are two material findings. Representative Weaver asked if these findings were not corrected might the Department of Military Affairs lose federal dollars. Ms. Wilson said that her office doesn't make that determination, and it would be the federal government's decision. In the past, she hadn't seen federal funding being lost unless there is a blatant disregard of material findings.
Ms. Wilson went on to state that in FY 2004 the Department of Military Affairs received $66 million from the federal government. $48 million were passed on to subrecipients. She audited Public Assistance Grants provided by FEMA, the State Domestic Disaster Preparedness Equipment Support program, and the National Guard. The Disaster Preparedness program and National Guard were audited for the first time in FY 2004. In past years, the Auditor of Public Accounts had found problems with subrecipient monitoring of Public Assistance Grants.
Ms. Wilson said that the two material findings were for inadequate subrecipient monitoring of Public Assistance Grants and a lack of internal control for the State Domestic Preparedness Equipment Assistance. Ms. Wilson said that she thought DMA was putting forth a big effort to correct the deficiencies. She said that she has not started the FY 2005 audit. She has been in contact with DMA, and she thinks that things have improved.
Representative Weaver said that since this audit was at the conclusion of 2004 he would assume that the corrective action has already been implemented. Ms. Wilson said that from the discussions she has had with DMA, she believes that DMA is moving to fix the deficiencies.
Representative Weaver asked Ms. Wilson that when she returns in a year she should begin by stating whether deficiencies have been corrected. This is the only way to track the situation.
Major General Storm said that he has addressed the findings. He said he was before this Committee December 2, 2004, concerning the findings. DMA has taken corrective action. He said that it is all about staffing and managing. A new policy has been put into place that implements a specially designed comprehensive subrecipient monitoring program. He said that DMA has hired an additional branch manager and an internal auditor for the public assistance program. He has a plan, and he is going to execute it.
Major General Storm explained that all the findings have been addressed except for finding 04-MA-02 concerning the tracking of income for the rental of National Guard Armories. He said that DMA has changed how it tracks this money. Over the next seven months, DMA will come into compliance with finding 04-MA-02.
Senator Roeding asked Major General Storm to identify the subrecipients and state how much money they have received. Major General Storm said that the subrecipients are in all the counties that have an emergency management division plus the cities. General Storm said that it was up to him at the state level and the emergency management division to monitor and make sure that the subrecipients abide by all federal rules and regulations.
Senator Roeding said that some counties are more likely to be subject to terrorist attack than others. He hoped the money was being allocated to local governments responsible for terrorist targets such as utilities, airports, transportation systems, and refineries. These critical areas need more money and it should be allocated to them. Major General Storm said that the federal money was for the emergency management throughout the Commonwealth, and that the federal money was not directed at terrorism.
Ms. Webb-Edington said that all local emergency operations plans are submitted to the appropriate emergency operations regional director. From there, the plans go back to General Storm and General Bailey. In 2006, they are going to review all of the emergency operation plans again in regards to funding sources. Each of the regional 16 state police post have contingency plans that reflect General Storm's emergency operation plans.
David Pitts, Audit Manager with the Auditor of Public Accounts, explained that he was responsible for auditing the federal cemetery grants received by the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs (KDVA). He explained that the grant in question provides funds for the purpose of establishing and improving the Kentucky Veterans Cemeteries. He found one instance of KDVA not monitoring federal grant supported activities to assure compliance with federal requirements. He found another instance of KDVA lacking internal controls.
He recommended that KDVA implement additional internal controls and monitoring. In addition, he said that this was the first audit of KDVA in a number of years, or if at all, and the findings were not atypical of an agency that has not been audited before. KDVA should be able to correct problems without any negative effect on continued receipt of federal funding.
BG (Ret.) Les Beavers, Commissioner of KDVA, introduced David G. Worley as the new Branch Manager for Kentucky Veterans Cemeteries. Commissioner Beavers said that a Kentucky Veterans Cemetery has been open for a year and a half in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. As of October 5, 2005, there have been 241 burials. At the time of the audit, this cemetery was not open. General Beavers said that Mr. Worley was his solution to the issues raised by Mr. Pitts. Commissioner Beavers said that improved control was important, because at least four more cemeteries would be built. KDVA now has the deed for the cemetery in Fort Knox, Kentucky and will have ground breaking in November. On October 18, KDVA will select the company for the construction. KDVA also has the deed for the third cemetery at Williamstown. The design process will start next week for this cemetery. He will discuss the fourth and fifth cemeteries with the General Assembly during the upcoming Session. With regard to the federal grant, the federal grant, the responsibility is split between the Finance Cabinet and KDVA. General Beavers pointed out that the audit found no material findings.
Mr. Worley said that he came on board in June 2004. Since then he has improved communication with the Finance Cabinet. KDVA hopes to get another grant in six to eight weeks. KDVA has learned from the audit conducted by Mr. Pitts and will keep better records.
Mr. Pitts said that he will follow up on the findings and determine whether or not improvements have been made. KDVA will report on those in March 2006. Co-Chair Weaver said that when Mr. Pitts returns to the Committee next October, Co-Chair Weaver would like for Mr. Pitts to begin his report with a discussion of how KDVA has complied with the findings in this year's audit.
Senator Mangiardo said that he would like the committee to discuss natural gas prices at a future meeting. Rising natural gas prices is a great concern, especially for senior citizens who are often on a fixed income. He would like the Commonwealth to have a plan to address a significant rise in natural gas prices.
There being no further business the meeting adjourned at 3:05 p.m.