DOD funding aids first responders

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 among 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 officials hope to add $50 million more from partners.

Payton said a demonstration would take place next month in New Orleans. DOD and assorted state and local government agencies will respond to a terrorist attack scenario. A joint government team met last 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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