b'RROB PATTERSON who recently retired as acting administrator at the Drug Enforcement Agency, has seen firsthand the vast changes in communications technology that have transformed our world. Rising through the ranks of the agency over a 30-year career, he dismantled criminal networks, disrupted drug trafficking operations and oversaw classified programsall duties that relied on being equipped with the best communications technology. Pattersons public safety mission continues today in a different role. He is putting his years of field experience and leadership with the DEA to work at AT&T as the companys senior director of public safety solutions. That position has him playing a key role in connecting the federal market with FirstNet, the only dedicated broadband communications platform designed by and for first responders in the U.S. and American territories. In normal life, mobile communications are a convenience, and disruption leads to frustration, Patterson said at a recent event sponsored by Government Executive. In public safety, a failure in communications is not an option.Unfortunately, it has happened in the past. As revealed by the 9/11 Commission, dangerous gaps in functionality and interoperability hampered first responders efforts during their response to the terrorist attacks. Unless youve worked in the public safety realm, you cant know the feeling of when congested networks lead to chaos, Patterson said. Using spectrum set aside by the Federal Communications Commission, AT&T was chosen to build the first-of-its-kind network, which aims to close those gaps and make sure chaos is no longer part of the equation for first responders. Patterson shared firsthand experiences of communications challenges hes encountered over his career and the new era of FirstNet. In todays world, a working, reliable mobile device is just as vital a piece of equipment in a law enforcement agents tool kit as body armor or a weapon, Patterson contends. Early in his career, Patterson witnessed a critical breakdown in communication following an incident where an agent lost his life. The breakdown was due to a lack 2'