Writing Grants

By John McCormick  |  Posted 2003-09-09 Print this article Print

Designated Hitter

But Boyle seems to be getting a better handle on it than most. In fact hes considered the local expert on federal funding.

On a Tuesday last month, Boyle was invited by the Coast Guard to explain to the full Bay Area port security committee how to write a successful federal grant application. Even though Oakland has gotten only a fraction of what it asked for, its better than nothing, which is what several other Bay Area agencies and businesses got. The whole Bay Area—which includes the ports of Oakland, Redwood City, Richmond and San Francisco—won less than $8 million out of the $170 million available in the second round of grants.

Scattered throughout the ports boardroom are around 30 people—from government agencies, port tenants and local businesses. Boyle stands to one side with his hands in his pockets, pacing to and from the coffee machine. When asked a question, he speaks calmly and deliberately. Dont be intimidated by the TSAs requirement to file grant applications over the Web, he tells the group. Dont panic if the Web site has glitches or your computers go down two days before the deadline.

"The big element you have to have is a clear insight into what your vulnerability is, and," says the former English major and Chaucer fan, "to write that so they can understand it. Get everything they need to know in the first 500 words."

Ultimately, Boyles job is putting out fires, doling out what money he does have to control the biggest ones. So far, the TSA has mostly funded basic perimeter security at ports—wire strung through chain-link fences to detect intruders, digital cameras, and access control mechanisms that will work with the worker ID cards. But even so, Oakland took a hit.

The port was awarded $4.8 million for a perimeter project it estimated would cost $14 million. So it dug deep into its own pockets for an additional $1.4 million to pay the tab of ADT Security Services, the lowest bidder. With Oaklands help, ADT scaled back the project to $6.2 million, exchanging 31 miles of fiber-optic backbone for a dedicated, encrypted wireless network, and relocating cameras so the port didnt need as many. "Oakland had to squeeze a quart-sized wish list into a pint-sized budget," says Hobby Wright, ADTs manager of transportation systems.

Wright says ADT was able to add a "command-and-control platform" to the scaled-down project so Oakland could share information gathered from fences and cameras and building control systems with outside agencies such as the police. Right now, however, Oakland is reactivating a radio system that was used by the maintenance staff, so terminal operators can talk to each other on Motorola pagers if they see suspicious activity, and distributing radios to Customs and Coast Guard to improve communications with police. The Motorola pagers go for around $30,000, total. Its basic, Boyle says, but its a step up from making phone calls.

A bigger project is a portal that would integrate security into the ports everyday business—linking terminal operators, ocean carriers, railroads and trucking companies.

Parts of the project already exist. The terminal operators use various types of logistics software to keep track of containers and approve truck drivers for pickups. Meanwhile, Maritime Director Bridges has contracted with SynchroNet Marine for a portal called SynchroMet that lets trucking companies swap empty shipping containers online.

Such a portal could track the movement of cargo all through the supply chain, sending alerts when something is wrong, or verifying the identity of the truck driver delivering the container.

But right now, there is no funding.

Next page: Concerned Senators request examination of General Accounting Office of Homeland Security.


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