Member Discussion

Homeland Security Funding In California

How does the application work? Is the applicant supposed to select the vendor before filing or are they supposed bid it out after approval? A potential customer voiced concern about being able to use as they had already started the application process with a different vendor.


Here's feedback from someone in California:

"It depends on how they did the proposal. Usually, the grant application defines the scope and not necessarily the vendor but I have worked projects where the vendor was selected and an "or equal" was inserted.

Whomever is submitting the grant needs to ask the grant issuer or consult an expert. It can be tricky."
Hope that helps get the conversation going. Let's see what others can add.

Government grants typically happen in two ways.

The first way is for the applicant themselves to become aware of a grant opportunity and to submit an application on their own. Usually, they already have a project in mind (such as a video surveillance upgrade), and may have already received a proposal from a vendor in order to determine the cost. If the grant is approved, the applicant is usually required to go through a competitive bid process to actually select a vendor. But as in many competitive bid situations, they may already have a vendor they like (perhaps the one who submitted the original proposal) and may slant the evaluation process to favor this vendor.

The second way is for a vendor to approach an applicant cold to make them aware of a problem that they didn't know that they had and propose a solution to this problem that could be funded by a grant. Not coincidently, this solution is sold by the vendor who brought the problem to their attention in the first place. The vendor then walks them through the grant application process and may even prepare the specification that is used for the procurement. If the grant is approved, a competitive bid process must be used, but in almost every case, the vendor who initiated the project has a significant edge and usually wins.

Companies who do most of their business in the government sector are usually experts in "grantsmanship" and devote significant resources to lobbying for grants, identifying grant opportunities, and helping prospective clients to obtain grants. If you are a novice in this area and try to compete for this type of work, you will usually get crushed like a bug.


If another integrator comes across the 'competitive' bid floated by the end user, is there a way for them to find out if there is already another entity 'on the inside' that has helped the customer create, float and win the grant that is funding the RFP?

Is there anything in place in the grant process that requires this disclosure?

If not, it sounds like a giant waste of time for any other 'outside' vendors to even bother. And if the inside party is disclosed, why would anyone spend the time it takes to put forth a legitimate bid?

I believe that grant applications would be public information, but am not sure whether or not the applicant would be required to provide details about who may have "helped" them in filling out the grant application or writing. Often there are clues within the document (such as paragraphs copied from a specific vendor's brochure) that give you some indication of who may have provided help.

Also, if you see basically the same RFP being used by multiple agencies, and the same vendor winning the jobs, you can be pretty sure that they had a hand in writing the RFPs.

Most grants do require that a open, competitive bid process be used to procure whatever is being funded, but there are thousands of creative ways a government entity can slant a RFP towards a specific vendor.

I think that an outside vendor can win a project away from a vendor with inside involvement, but it is very difficult. You normally have to have an exceptionally compelling proposal, or offer significant cost savings in order to unseat the favored candidate, but it can be done.

Another interesting thing about grants is that the grant amount often includes funds for the entity receiving the grant to manage the project with their own in-house staff. Often, a significant portion of the grant money is actually used to pay agency salaries and other direct costs associated with the project.

So just because an agency gets a $1,000,000 grant for a video surveillance system doesn't mean that is the amount available to the installing contractor. Often, an agency will want to hang on to as much money as possible for their own internal use. Some government employee jobs are entirely funded by grants and they are always looking for the next project to assure their continued employment.

Are these grants available in all the states or just California?

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants are available in every state to qualified applicants. Grants from other agencies are also available for specific market sectors (seaports, transportation facilities, colleges, etc.)

I have an opportunity with a local city that is applying for this year's Homeland Security Grant for city-wide surveillance. Do you know if DHS grants require the Buy America/American adherence? I've been reading the past posts on the subject and really never got to the bottom of it. If so, in your opinion, what brands would meet the requirements today?

I have really not being staying on top of the "Buy America" issue (it's a moving target) and have no clue as to what brands might comply.

My 2 Cents on this topic.  

1. It's all black magic and snake oil so be prepared.

2. Be prepared to wait on anything related fed grant funding to go through for at least 18 - 24 months.