Westminster, Colo. – The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) today approved resolutions proposed by its new General Manager, Bill D’Agostino, to give FirstNet the funding and organizational structure it needs to advance its mission to build a nationwide, public safety broadband network for first responders.
D’Agostino outlined for the Board an organizational plan for FirstNet, identifying senior management positions that he intends to fill. As full-time employees are hired, many of the functions being performed by Board members and temporary consultants will be transitioned over to FirstNet staff.
“FirstNet is entering a new phase as we work to stand up this organization,” said Board Chairman Sam Ginn. “I’m confident that Bill is taking us in the right direction and look forward to getting these critical staff on board as expeditiously as possible.”
D’Agostino is currently undertaking a review process of the terms and conditions on new contracts. The budget resolution approved today would increase authorized spending to $20 million and commitments (obligations) to $50 million for FY 2013, subject to the Board’s approval of the acquisition strategy.
D’Agostino said the budget increases are critical to enable FirstNet to grow its outreach teams to continue the relationship building and state and local outreach that was begun through the three regional workshops held with states so far. He also said the funding was important to permit FirstNet to continue to work with the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) public safety projects, which are currently negotiating spectrum lease agreements with FirstNet.
“We have a lot of work to do, and the budget and organizational plan approved by the Board today put us on a clear path forward,” said D’Agostino. “We are just beginning our extensive outreach to states, local governments and tribes to gather their input on their unique public safety needs, and it’s critical that we have the staff and budget to do so effectively.”
FirstNet has completed three of its six scheduled consultation workshops and initiated a very important dialogue with 276 representatives from 23 states and five territories. The workshops gave FirstNet vital perspective on the widely varied needs of each state. Participants had multiple opportunities to ask questions and provide input regarding their unique requirements, priorities and concerns.
“Our goal was to set a tone of open, frank talk and that’s what we heard,” explained Jeffrey Johnson, the keynote speaker and FirstNet Board member leading the outreach efforts. “We came away with a keen appreciation for the need to clarify FirstNet and state responsibilities, , address next generation 911 integration and provide a clear picture of FirstNet costs and sustainability model.”
The workshops have inspired collaboration and paved the way for building important relationships that will be key to the success of FirstNet.
Separately, the Board adopted a resolution that would seek a delegation from the Secretary of Commerce to establish its own National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) implementing procedures for the construction of the nationwide, public safety broadband network.
The Board also heard an update on progress from the Special Review Committee established to review issues raised by Board member Sherriff Paul Fitzgerald. The committee has organized two subcommittees and engaged legal counsel in preparation for the review work. Their efforts will entail reviewing documents, conducting interviews with staff at the Department of Commerce as well as Board members, and reviewing the materials related to FirstNet’s compliance with applicable federal hiring and procurement rules, conflict of interest rules and open meeting requirements.
“Both committees expect to have a detailed work plan and timeline mapped out in the near future,” said Board member Wellington Webb. “We are pleased that Sheriff Fitzgerald is feeling better and can now be part of our upcoming interview process. His specific input will be an important aspect of our review.”
Finally, the Board heard an update from Board member Sue Swenson, who is negotiating spectrum lease agreements between FirstNet the seven public safety BTOP grantees, whose funding was partially suspended following enactment of the law creating FirstNet, and also the State of Texas for Harris County. Progress is being made, though she noted that there is currently a June 12 deadline for reaching an agreement. She said she would ask each of the BTOP projects if they wanted to extend their negotiation period.
FirstNet will provide emergency responders with the first high-speed, nationwide network dedicated to public safety. FirstNet is designed to improve communication among local, state, regional, tribal and national emergency services personnel. The broadband data network will help save lives and protect the health and safety of all Americans. It will be built using LTE, the most advanced wireless technology available today. FirstNet fulfills a fundamental need of the public safety community for a single, mission-critical communications system enabling force multiplier effectiveness. Overseen by representatives of public safety, government and the wireless industry, FirstNet is an independent entity within the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (www.firstnet.gov).