News in Brief

FirstNet RFP, Navy CIO and S&T on Facebook

FirstNet, the planned interoperable communications network for first responders, is making progress, but questions remain about risks and sustainability.

FirstNet expects RFP to hit the streets in early 2016

T.J. Kennedy, acting executive director of the First Responder Network Authority, told a House panel that the final request for proposals for the nationwide public safety broadband network is likely to go out in early 2016, although the agency is still shooting for a release by the end of 2015.

Despite the possible slippage, members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Communications and Technology Subcommittee were largely pleased with the progress FirstNet has made in the 18 months since the last oversight hearing.

"There has been some turnover in management, and with the release of the inspector general's report in December of last year confirming much of what we feared -- that FirstNet had been operating without proper processes in place and without compliance with the laws that guard against impropriety -- it is my hope that the missteps are behind us," said Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the subcommittee.

The Commerce Department's Office of Inspector General announced that it was beginning an audit into the "effectiveness in addressing federal agency challenges with respect to the development and planned operation" of the FirstNet network. Kennedy told lawmakers that no particular event had triggered the IG's probe and that the audit was a matter of routine.

The planned network has been designed to allow public safety personnel at the state, local, tribal and federal levels to communicate with one another and share data via dedicated mobile broadband spectrum. The effort was funded with $7 billion in proceeds from the recent and highly successful Advanced Wireless Service 3 spectrum auction conducted by the Federal Communications Commission. The goal is for FirstNet to become self-sustaining based on network fees and income generated from the lease of excess capacity.

There are still a lot of questions about the effort. A recent Government Accountability Office report notes that "FirstNet faces a multitude of risks, significant challenges and difficult decisions in meeting its statutory responsibilities, including how to become a self-funding entity."

After the RFP is released next year, building and deploying the network are expected to take about five years, with some early projects going online ahead of full deployment to give FirstNet officials a chance to explore challenges and best practices.

Robert Foster is Navy's new CIO

Robert Foster, former deputy CIO at the Department of Health and Human Services, has replaced John Zangardi as the Navy Department's CIO, according to multiple news reports.

Foster's first day on the job was June 15. He also served as deputy CIO of the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to his LinkedIn bio.

DHS S&T on Facebook

The Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate wants you to like it.

Officials unveiled the directorate's Facebook page on June 15, adding to its stable of other social media, including Twitter and YouTube.

S&T Undersecretary Reginald Brothers said in a June 15 blog post that social media is another way for the directorate to connect with its audiences. S&T scientists, for instance, have engaged in hour-long Twitter chats focused on a specific technology or concept.

Brothers also noted that S&T launched a YouTube channel in December that features videos of developing technologies and those ready to transition to U.S. partners or the commercial market.

In January, S&T began the National Conversation on Homeland Security Technology to engage stakeholders in a discussion on current and future threats and in turn develop solutions to pave the way to a more secure, resilient future.

About the Author

Connect with the FCW staff on Twitter @FCWnow.

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