NCS working on pair of pilots

The National Communications System is in the early stages of two pilot projects aimed at improving the reliability and speed of the telecommunications and wireless systems for first responders and other key personnel during a national crisis or disaster.

Brenton Greene, deputy manager of NCS, said one pilot project is an emergency notification system that would use Internet-based, wireless and other telecommunications means to notify a "few thousand key people" in the Washington, D.C., area during a national disaster.

The emergency notification system pilot project -- still in its early stages -- would include the contact information of key personnel and would attempt to reach them by the fastest method available, Greene said.

NCS officials are accepting bids on how to integrate notification systems and tools, Greene told Federal Computer Week after participating in a Sept. 10 panel at the Homeland Security and National Defense Symposium in Atlantic City, N.J.

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

The other NCS pilot project is aimed at establishing a backup dial tone for key federal buildings, Greene said, adding that there were no dial tone problems reported during last September's terrorist attacks except with the physical locations that were actually destroyed in New York City and at the Pentagon.

Still, if dial tones were "catastrophically taken out" at key federal buildings, the government would like to have a backup in place, he said, adding that if land lines were lost, federal users could use cellular or satellite networks.

"In some regards, you already have an alternative in place," but it never hurts to have another layer of redundancy, Greene said.

The symposium sponsors are the Army's Communications-Electronics Command, the Association of the U.S. Army's Fort Monmouth, N.J., chapter, the Association of Old Crows' Garden State chapter, and the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association's Fort Monmouth chapter.

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