FirstNet leader D'Agostino resigns

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Bill D'Agostino, the day-to-day leader of the effort to build a nationwide interoperable broadband public safety network, is stepping down after a year on the job. Deputy General Manager T.J. Kennedy is taking over management immediately while a replacement is sought, according to a press release from the First Responder Network Authority.

Dubbed FirstNet, the authority is an independent organization within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Established by Congress in 2012, FirstNet is designing and building a high-speed broadband network in the 700 MHz band with the goal of eliminating the interoperability limitations that continue to plague first responders while enabling the transmission of documents, images and video along with voice traffic over the network.

"I have been honored to lead FirstNet's management efforts over the past year and believe the organization is now well positioned to enter the next stage of its development," D'Agostino said in a statement released by FirstNet. The release states that D'Agostino, a former Verizon executive, was resigning for personal reasons and that a search is underway for a replacement.

A FirstNet spokesman was upbeat about the organization's ability to make progress on its goals during the search for a new leader. "We don't anticipate losing any momentum as we now have the people, plans and partnerships in place to execute our mission," said FirstNet spokesman Ryan Oremland.

FirstNet is in the process of developing a business plan and expanding its staff. Recently, it tapped Jim Gwinn, formerly of the Farm Service Agency at USDA, to be CIO. The organization conducts much of its work behind the scenes, but officials published a summary of a program road map adopted by the board of directors in March, and in the coming year, they expect to release the first draft requests for proposal for network design and equipment.

Part of FirstNet's challenge lies in its plan to use existing infrastructure to support the network's backbone, including satellite coverage, to avoid the prohibitive expense of building a network from scratch. To further complicate matters, some states have been reluctant to participate because of funding and other concerns.

The $7 billion effort will draw funds from a planned Federal Communications Commission auction of broadcast television spectrum expected to occur in 2015. Before the FCC auction takes place, NTIA is authorized to borrow $2 billion on behalf of FirstNet. However, as of February, the FirstNet Board had yet to determine a spending plan for fiscal 2015, and funding for the network is not specified in the fiscal 2015 budget. FirstNet is also planning to move out of NTIA's Washington, D.C., headquarters to a dedicated office space in Reston, Va.

Furthermore, the Commerce Department's inspector general is investigating alleged conflicts of interest among FirstNet's board of directors involving three sole-source contracts totaling $14 million. A report on the matter is expected to be released later this year, according to recent congressional testimony by Commerce IG Todd Zinser.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy, health IT and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mr. Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian started his career as an arts reporter and critic, and has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, Architect magazine, and other publications. He was an editorial assistant and staff writer at the now-defunct New York Press and arts editor at the online network in the 1990s, and was a weekly contributor of music and film reviews to the Washington Times from 2007 to 2014.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.

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