DOD aids first responder system

As part of an annual program supporting advanced technology projects, the

Defense Department is funding development of a system to improve communications

among state and local public safety agencies and DOD personnel.

The homeland security command and control (HSC2) package is intended

to provide a secure, common communications backbone to ensure that emergency

workers don't face the radio, telephone and digital communications breakdowns

that occurred after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, said Sue Payton, deputy

undersecretary of Defense for advanced systems and concepts.

The lack of interoperability between the systems used by the police,

firefighters and medical personnel made it difficult for them to track where

help was being given and where it was needed.

"It's basically a communications project, but it's also getting the

data together for situational awareness," she said. "It's a matter of getting

the networks together, the data, and then software to allow people to understand

what's really going on."

HSC2 is getting $3.8 million from Payton's office and is hoping to add

$50 million more from partners.

Payton said a demonstration would take place next month in New Orleans.

In it, DOD and assorted state and local government agencies will respond

to a terrorist attack scenario. A joint government team is meeting this

week "to vet it a little more," she said.

"Communication in the crisis management stage of a terrorist attack

is critical," said John Wohlfarth, a research analyst at the Anser Institute

for Homeland Security. "Having a hierarchy in effect to get the information

when they need it — that's terrific."

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