• United States



Lobbying for Homeland Security Funding

Jul 01, 20033 mins
ComplianceCritical InfrastructureSecurity

Companies are lining up to get their share of homeland security funding. And they've come up with some creative ways to get it.

There’s money to be had, if you know where to look. President Bush’s proposed budget for the Department of Homeland Security allocates $350 million in new funding for the research and development of security-specific projects, in addition to $373 million for technology investments that address border security. Technology and R&D companies are clamoring for their share of the pot.

And they’ll do whatever it takes. Companies that have used lobbyists to get defense contracts from groups such as Congress’s armed services committees are now adding the DHS to the list. Some companies are taking a different route and bypassing lobbyists altogether. Instead, they are looking internallyto their own sales forceto prove to the government that they deserve funding. Still others have chosen to outsource, hiring PR firms to do the lobbying dirty work for them., a website that tracks lobbyist registrations, reports that as of April 2003, 569 companies had registered a homeland security lobbyist. Of the companies registering, the majority are technology and security firms, in addition to some biotech companies. “Homeland defense is a growth industry, and I think a lot of these companies foresee the need to get in on the earliest contracts; they don’t want to be left out,” says Kent Cooper, a principal officer for

Many companies are bypassing lobbyists, requiring their sales staff or procurement offices to educate themselves on selling to the government, says Rick White, president and CEO of TechNet, which represents the CEOs of more than 200 companies predominantly from the technology industry. According to White, the strength of lobbyists lies in their ability to lobby for policy. However, if you are looking to sell products, he thinks a more effective approach is to develop a sales staff that knows how to work with Washington.

“The private sector was so hot [in the ’90s], and many companies did not focus on government,” White says. “The bubble burst, and the government became the number-one client in town…now there are salespeople who are all of a sudden learning about the government.” Scott Pastrick, president and CEO of BKSH, the government relations arm of PR firm Burson-Marsteller, says a few dozen companies have contacted him in the past three months about hiring BKSH to help with both homeland security lobbying and working through government red tape. And, he adds, many of his existing clients have added homeland security to the list of issues they would like BKSH to lobby for on their behalf.

Pastrick hears these questions most often: How can we work with the government? Whom can we talk to? What should we be prepared for? “We are telling companies to be patient and agile,” he says. “Until there is an organizational chart and seats get filled [in the DHS] we will be in a learning curve.” A learning curve that will likely continue for quite some time as the country struggles with the question of how to protect our nation’s critical infrastructure.