Message from FirstNet Chair

December 9, 2014  By Sue Swenson, FirstNet Chair

Today, we received the Department of Commerce Office of the Inspector General’s (OIG) audit report on the Department’s administration of FirstNet’s ethics program and procurement of contractor support in the early days of our operations. The report makes a number of recommendations regarding improving guidance and processes around the Department’s ethics program and contracting on behalf of FirstNet. We concur with these recommendations, many of which have already been implemented.

FirstNet is a unique organization, charged with a significant task – to build the first-ever broadband network for the nation’s public safety community. No organization has accomplished what we have set out to do. We acknowledge some administrative missteps were made in the early days, and we have taken and will continue to take steps to address them.

I am confident that the FirstNet of today is on the right path forward for these and many other reasons.

Both the Department and FirstNet have instituted a comprehensive and effective ethics program and are taking the appropriate measures to help ensure first-rate procurement practices to assist in FirstNet’s mission. This includes the ongoing expansion of FirstNet’s formal compliance program to supplement existing Commerce Department requirements. We also have learned lessons from the early procurements and are now applying these experiences going forward to further improve.

Further, the organization has undergone significant change in the past year, including the institution of an experienced management team, dedicated legal counsel, and more than 80 employees. Our leadership team and full-time, dedicated staff are implementing a Strategic Program Roadmap to lead us down the path of success.

We are on track with the milestones that we outlined in the Roadmap and have also cultivated important partnerships with the future users of the network – the public safety community. We are consulting with the states, territories, and tribal nations on how to build the network. In Fiscal Year 2014, we participated in nearly 100 events across the country that connected us to thousands of firefighters, law enforcement officials, emergency medical providers, and public safety officials from all levels of government.

We understand the unique risks that FirstNet faces in its mission to deploy the nation’s first public safety broadband network, and we will continue to take the steps necessary to ensure we remain committed to the highest level of transparency, integrity, ethics, and ongoing compliance as we move forward.

I would like to thank the public safety community for its patience and critical support during this time. FirstNet has moved quickly to lay the necessary foundations of your network and our organization. Working together, we have come a long way in 2014, and I am looking forward to an even more productive 2015 and beyond.