Safecom chief defends program

"Key Cross-Agency Emergency Communications Effort Requires Stronger Collaboration"

The leader of the federal government's wireless interoperability program said a recent General Accounting Office report criticizing its progress was completed before many program accomplishments were completed.

The GAO report, issued in April, said that Safecom made little progress in its two years of existence largely because of lacks of high-level executive support, formal interagency agreements and nonfederal stakeholders.

"The GAO report reflects only a little bit of what we've managed to accomplish so far and that's largely because...it finished up really before the bulk of the things we put together have been done," said David Boyd, Safecom program manager.

In a recent interview with Federal Computer Week, Boyd listed a number of accomplishments of the program office since last June — most of which occurred this year. They include:

Support from the first responder community, especially at the state and local levels because they own, operate, and maintain more than 90 percent of the public safety wireless communications infrastructure.

A joint statement of Safecom support from the International Association of Chiefs of Police, International Association of Fire Chiefs, U.S. Conference of Mayors, National League of Cities, Association of Public Safety Communications Officials and other major law enforcement and emergency management organizations.

Collection of information on 60 programs about interoperability in a catalog available on the Internet

A common grant guidance, which the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Community Oriented Policing Services Office began using last year, for the different federal interoperability funds available.

Production of the first national statement of requirements to help steer the industry to develop what's needed among public safety communities and to serve as a planning document for state and local officials. "We had had several companies come in now and show us how they're mapping those requirements to the capabilities they provide so it's doing the kind of thing we want it to do," Boyd said.

Creation of a federal interoperability coordination council, which brings together every federal activity that relates to interoperability, whether it's providing grants or building a system. Standards-making and regulatory organizations, such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology and Federal Communications Commission, are also part of the council.

"Safecom, of course, establishes the national architecture, coordinates the federal activity, and manages the standards piece," Boyd said. "That's what it was charged to do, and it continues to do that, and so all the communications elements of this office will be in compliance with those things."

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