When duty calls

It's easy for people to say they are committed to making the United States a safer place to live, but it's often more difficult to actually do it. Unless you're Brenton Greene.

As deputy manager of the National Communications System (NCS), Greene manages the nation's emergency communications capabilities — an increasingly important responsibility since last year's Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, which illuminated the vulnerability of the country's communications systems.

But a look at his resume — which includes helping develop a national policy on critical infrastructure protection and commanding nuclear attack submarines — proves that Greene's commitment to his country is not new.

Maybe that's why his current job is a good fit. 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.

NCS comprises 22 different agencies as well as the Government Emergency Telecommunications Service, which prioritizes access for government workers, and the emerging Wireless Priority Service (WPS), which makes it easier for national security officials and first responders equipped with special phones to make emergency calls.

Government officials have been pushing for the establishment of WPS since the terrorist attacks wreaked havoc on wireless telephone networks, and Greene said the agency's top priority is establishing a successful initial operating capability for the system.

"It's moving ahead exceptionally well today, and the national footprint for the initial capability should be in place by December of this year," Greene said. T-Mobile USA Inc. (formerly VoiceStream) will support the system, but the goal is to also include other wireless providers by the time the system is completed at the end of 2003, he added.

"We want to have all the major carriers engaging in the program. That's in the national best interest, but also requires more funding."

Air Force Lt. Gen. Harry Raduege Jr., who is the director of DISA and worked with Greene before he started at NCS in April 2001, said he was excited to see his old colleague come on board.

"He is a visionary who has the ability to look beyond today's environment and plan for the future," Raduege said. "He transformed the NCS organizational structure, working hard to ensure that the National Communications System remained a relevant force in the national security/emergency preparedness arena in today's rapidly changing environment."

A large part of that changing environment is NCS' impending move to the proposed Homeland Security Department. Greene said he has been working closely with the transition-planning group from the proposed department and also has been collaborating with representatives from other affected agencies, including the National Infrastructure Protection Center, the Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office and the General Services Administration's Federal Computer Incident Response Center.

"We started meeting together to ensure we were integrating interagency capabilities to support" the proposed department, Greene said, adding that he and other representatives did not wait to be told to start talking, but were already collaborating when the transition team came calling.

Greene said once the legislation is in place to launch the new department, there will be a "whole lot of capabilities in place on Day One" thanks to the "tremendous range of national-level capabilities" that NCS offers. "The key element is that none of these elements are lost."

Raduege is convinced that based on Greene's track record, including his performance following last year's terrorist attacks, NCS' transition to the new department is in good hands.

"He continues to work tirelessly to ensure that the NCS will do everything necessary to provide the emergency communication needs of our nation," Raduege said.

When Greene isn't busy worrying about the nation's emergency communications needs — which he admits isn't often enough — he enjoys spending time with his wife, Debra, and their two sons, Andrew, 11, and Adam, 7. Greene's hobbies include fly-fishing and hiking, although "it's sometimes challenging to find the time. I'm starting to enjoy doing them with my sons."

"I have a passion for national security work, and sometimes I don't feel I devote as much time as I want to my family," Greene said. "It's a tough trade-off and balance."

The 53-year-old said retirement isn't in the cards. "Hey, I'm still young," he said. Considering that his family is among the millions of people he helps protect, it's easy to understand his devotion.

"Running the day-to-day operations of NCS is the opportunity to make a difference and advance a number of national capabilities that really support our homeland security needs, protection of our society and all that's important," Greene said.

***

The Brenton Greene file

Position: Deputy manager of the National Communications System.

Resume: Previously managed critical infrastructure protection programs for Sandia National Laboratories. His work establishing and serving as commissioner of the President's Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection (1996-97) earned him a Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service. Created the Defense Department's Infrastructure Policy Directorate and was its first director.

Military career: Graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1971 and was commander of two nuclear attack submarines, USS Skipjack and USS Hyman G. Rickover.

Proudest moment: In addition to his family and his distinguished military career, Greene is most proud of taking part in DOD's critical infrastructure protection efforts. "I'm extremely proud of what we did there, and the significance today is a lot greater than when we were doing it," he said.

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