DHS To Create Communication Equipment Technical Standards

WASHINGTON – Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Michael Chertoff announced several steps taken by the department that will create communication equipment technical standards designed to improve radio interoperability among first responders across the country.

In a speech at the Tactical Interoperable Communications Conference May 8, Chertoff said the biggest barrier to interoperability is not technology. “The equipment and technology that is required to be interoperable at this very moment exists today,” he said.

“The problems associated with the lack of coordination in the public safety community stem throughout all of our jurisdictional boundaries. They include issues like turf fighting over the management and control of radio systems. They include lack of a shared and agreed-upon priority for achieving interoperability, and they also involve limited sharing of interoperability solutions.”

In response to this, DHS asked 75 urban and metropolitan areas to submit their tactical interoperable communication plans. The department will then test and evaluate the plans. By the end of the year, each area will receive a score card identifying the gaps in interoperability that need to be fixed.  “With the score card,” says Chertoff, “we envision that states and urban areas will be able to determine their greatest needs so that when they come to us, for example, for grants, they’ll be able to be more effective in showing what they will do with the money they’re requesting to move us toward the goal of total interoperability.”

Additionally, in the next two weeks, DHS will begin conducting the National Baseline Interoperability Survey. It will obtain information from 23,000 state and local government personnel regarding the status of their communications equipment interoperability.

From the information gathered, as well as the input from a task force currently being created, the DHS will provide functional requirements and performance standards for equipment that state and local governments can use to guide their purchase of new communications equipment.

“The idea is ultimately not to dictate a particular form of product or a particular vendor,” said Chertoff, “but rather to lay down some standards and guidance about the requirements you think you need to develop a common technology and ensure that your investments going forward, buying your next generation of radios, will promote interoperability rather than greater barriers to communication.”

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