Safecom to award interoperable wireless contracts by year's end

National Public Safety Telecommunications Council

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The Homeland Security Department's Safecom program management office plans to release a broad agency announcement soliciting technical interoperability solutions from companies by the end of this month, which should result in the award of several contracts by the end of the fiscal year, officials said today.

Safecom coordinates public safety wireless communications efforts across federal, state and local government. The agency announcement will be based on a statement of requirements developed by state and local communities with assistance from the federal government, said Thomas Coty, director of technical solutions for Safecom.

That statement identifies basic technical requirements for interoperability between public safety disciplines across multiple jurisdictions. It will focus first on primary first responders in law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services. Later, it will include supporting first responders, transportation entities, utilities and others, Coty said.

Having a true partnership at all levels is critical, said George Ake, program director for the Capital Wireless Integrated Network (CapWIN), which is an important regional testing ground for first responder wireless interoperability.

"There has to be buy-in, there has to be a sense of ownership, there has to be government," he said.

The National Public Safety Telecommunication Council has served as the primary discussion venue for state and local agencies, and over the next two weeks the statement of requirements will be finalized by going through the 56 regional planning councils throughout the country, Coty said.

The Safecom program office has up to $6 million for the two to four awards that officials expect to make this summer. The key will be solutions with some proven operational capability developed in close partnership with public safety organizations, Coty said.

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