Panel reviews integration of communications systems

While the Homeland Security Department has made strides with its SAFECOM program to coordinate wireless safety programs for the government, challenges remain to fostering communications among different systems, a department official said Wednesday.

"Our nation is heavily invested in an existing framework that is largely incompatible," SAFECOM Director David Boyd said in written testimony before the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and the Census. Despite the challenges, he said, SAFECOM has "accomplished a great deal in the short time [the department] has managed the program."

Those accomplishments include the RapidCom Initiative, which provides training to 10 urban areas in how to respond to emergency situations. The program is a "catalyst for these areas to begin to institutionalize routine training and exercises, governance meetings, standard operating procedures, and more frequent use of interoperable communications," Boyd said.

The road to interoperability is hampered, however, because "first responders" to emergencies lack standards to assess the nation's current wireless capabilities, according to the Government Accountability Office.

William Jenkins, director of homeland security and justice issues at GAO, said the fragmented federal grant structure for firefighters, police officers and other first responders does not support statewide plans to have the systems of emergency workers "talk" to each other. The structure of the grants does not require a long-term communications plan before grants are issued and contains only a one- or two-year performance period, he said.

"The federal and state governments lack a coordinated grant review process to ensure that funds allocated to local governments are used for communication projects that complement each other," he said. The federal government can provide the "leadership, long-term commitment and focus to help state and local governments" meet their communication goals.

SAFECOM expects to publish an architectural framework by the third quarter of fiscal 2005, Boyd said. It also closed a request for proposals period Tuesday for a means to develop an accurate assessment of the situation and expects to begin work no later than December, he said.

Officials also are working on federal coordination. SAFECOM developed a common grant guidance program, outlining grant eligibility and purpose, Boyd said.

John Muletta, chief of the FCC's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, noted that "some of the challenges involved in bringing interoperability to public-safety systems are outside the scope of the FCC's authority, [but] the commission continues to take a leadership role in trying to resolve these challenges."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.