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Letters, statements, etc., submitted for the record by:
Boyd, David G., Director, SAFECOM Program Office, Science and Tech-
Jenkins, William O., Jr., Director, Homeland Security and Justice Issues,
Muleta, John B., esq., Chief, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, Fed-
Shays, Hon. Christopher, a Representative in Congress from the State
Thomas, Hanford C., Director, statewide wireless network project, New
PUBLIC SAFETY INTEROPERABILITY: LOOK
WHO'S TALKING NOW
TUESDAY, JULY 20, 2004
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL SECURITY, EMERGING
THREATS AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS,
COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENT REFORM,
The subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 11 a.m., in room 2154, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Christopher Shays (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Present: Representatives Shays, Kucinich, Turner, Maloney, Ruppersberger, Tierney, and Watson.
Staff present: Lawrence Halloran, staff director and counsel; R. Nicholas Palarino, senior policy advisor; Robert A. Briggs, clerk; Grace Washbourne, full committee professional staff member; Andrew Su, minority professional staff member; and Cecelia Morton, minority office manager.
Mr. SHAYS. A quorum being present, the Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations hearing entitled, "Public Safety Interoperability: Look Who's Talking Now," is called to order.
The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 exposed dangerous gaps and failures in essential communication systems. Cell phone networks collapsed. First responders using incompatible radios could not relay vital information. The New York Stock Exchange shut down, but the Federal Reserve System and the Nation's banking network continued to operate.
Why? Because standardization, technical interconnectivity and redundancy at banks protected that critical communication infrastructure. Almost 3 years later, the critical telecommunications networks first responders bank on every day to save lives remain fragmented and vulnerable. Despite significant expenditures and some progress, public safety and emergency response communications still lack the bandwidth and connectivity needed to sustain essential capabilities in a major crisis.
So today we revisit the status of Federal efforts to improve first responder interoperability. As we will hear in testimony, forging links between more than 44,000 State and local agencies and over 100 Federal programs and offices poses daunting challenges. The lack of interoperability accurately reflects a lack of intergovernmental consensus on the urgency, feasibility and affordability of communication upgrades.
Uncoordinated planning and funding cycles seem to keep the consensus beyond reach. Disjointed Federal grant programs do little to guide State and local programs toward effective short or long term solutions, and the push for interoperability further complicates the already intense competition between public and commercial users for choice radio frequency spectrum bands.
A recent decision by the Federal Communications Commission to clear interference from the 800 megahertz public safety bands should help improve the performance of critical systems. But crowded spectrum is only one aspect of the problem. Another serious impediment is the lack of standardized information on the capabilities of current systems. Without broadly accepted technology and performance standards against which to measure progress, it is difficult to determine where we are, and all but impossible to know if we're getting anywhere.
After our hearing on these issues last November, we asked the Government Accountability Office, newly named but still GAO, to examine current Federal efforts to foster interoperability. The report issued today finds intergovernmental corroboration lacking and calls for standards, benchmarks and funding discipline to focus the currently rudderless process.
All the technical and regulatory jargon should not be allowed to obscure the central fact that lives are at stake. Selfless work on these issues by Monica Gabrielle, Sally Regenhard, Beverly Eckert, Mary Fetchet and so many other September 11 family members reminds us of our solemn obligation to speak with one urgent voice to avoid future tragedies.
We appreciate the time, expertise and dedication of all our witnesses who bring to us a very important discussion, and we look forward to each and every one of their testimony.
[The prepared statement of Hon. Christopher Shays follows:]
TOM DAVIS, VIRGINIA,
DAN BURTON, INDIANA
CHRISTOPHER SHAYS, CONNECTICUT
JOHN M. MCHUGH, NEW YORK
JOHN L. MICA, FLORIDA
MARKE SOUDER INDIANA
EVEN C LATOURETTE, OHIO
UG OSE, CALIFORNIA
JN LEWIS, KENTUCKY
JO ANN DAVIS, VIRGINIA
TODD RUSSELL PLATTS, PENNSYLVANIA
CHRIS CANNON UTAH
ADAM H PUTNAM, FLORIDA
EDWARD L. SCHROCK, VIRGINIA
JOHN J. DUNCAN, JR, TENNESSEE
NATHAN DEAL GEORGIA
CANDICE MILLER, MICHIGAN
MICHAEL A. TURNER, OHIO
JOHN A CARTER, TEXAS
MARSHA BLACKBURN, TENNESSEE
KATHERINE HARRIS FLORIDA
The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 exposed dangerous gaps
Almost three years later, the critical telecommunication networks first responders bank on every day to save lives remain fragmented and vulnerable. Despite significant expenditures and some progress, public safety and emergency response communications still lack the bandwidth and connectivity needed to sustain essential capabilities in a major crisis. So today we revisit the status of federal efforts to improve first responder interoperability.
As we will hear in testimony, forging links between more than 44,000 state and local agencies and over 100 federal programs and offices poses daunting technical and political challenges.