NCS may get lost in Homeland

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The Bush administration's proposal for the new Homeland Security Department includes the National Communications System, but one top Defense Department official would like that move to essentially be in name only.

Army Lt. Gen. Joseph Kellogg Jr., director of command, control, communications and computers for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said DOD will abide by what the president wants, but he said he hopes the repositioning of NCS will only be a "paper move." Kellogg was speaking June 25 at E-Gov's Homeland Security 2002 conference in Washington, D.C.

NCS, which is co-managed by the White House and the Defense Information Systems Agency, is charged with assisting the president, the National Security Council and federal agencies with their telecommunications functions, as well as coordinating the government's national security and emergency preparedness communications. It includes the Government Emergency Telecommunications Service (GETS) and the Wireless Priority Service in which government workers are given a code and categorized for priority access. These services are used in emergencies and responded well following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Brenton Greene, deputy manager of NCS, said that its interagency and industry partnership roles "will continue and need to continue."

"The goal is not to do harm to these processes, but to make them most effective in the future," Greene told Federal Computer Week earlier this month at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association's TechNet International 2002 conference in Washington, D.C.

Kellogg agreed and said his concern in moving NCS is that it would get buried in the new department and would take longer to get its messages to the Cabinet level. He added that the agency currently has a good home and is working well, and his advice would be to "just change the wiring diagram."

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