SafeCom gets new home

Wireless program moves to Homeland Security Department in an effort to kick-start the initiative

The SafeCom national public safety wireless interoperability initiative is moving to a new office within the Homeland Security Department, in an effort to kick-start the program designed to enhance communications among first responders.

SafeCom and wireless technologies are top priorities for the department. But the work performed so far under SafeCom has not produced any useable results, said Steve Cooper, chief information officer for the Homeland Security Department.

As a result, the department is rethinking its approach to fixing the interoperability problem, working more closely with state and local users and designating SafeCom as a prototype project within its new home in the Science and Technology directorate, he said.

"We've spent a fair amount of money and I don't know that we've got a lot of show for it," he said, speaking April 8 at the FOSE show in Washington, D.C.

Last month, General Accounting Office officials named SafeCom as one of the 24 e-government initiatives that had fallen the farthest behind on their intended schedules.

Homeland Security officials believe what is needed is an entirely different approach. "We're saying, wait a minute, this is an engineering problem," Cooper said.

This move is in line with a departmentwide decision to have all technology prototype projects headed by the Science and Technology directorate, Cooper said. Under this arrangement, the CIO's office will support the development work, and once the technology solution moves into the production or operational phase, the office will take responsibility for it, he said.

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