Two First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) committees today approved resolutions recommending that the full board tomorrow endorse a new lease for FirstNet’s technical headquarters in Boulder, Colo., and an updated charter for the Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC). Meanwhile, FirstNet officials detailed during committee meetings in Chicago plans to launch a Chief Customer Office and a Network Program Office as part of the fiscal year 2017 budget.The resolution for the Boulder lease, which was approved by the Finance Committee, recommends renewing the current lease for a five-year term followed by five one-year options. Officials said the terms are very favorable, especially considering the increase in rents in the Boulder area.
The resolution by the Governance and Personnel Committee concerning the PSAC charter deals with, among other things, increasing the membership to include representatives of the Justice and Homeland Security departments and modifying the reporting structure of the PSAC executive committee to FirstNet. The PSAC plans to launch a federal working group that will include representatives from other federal agencies as well. The resolution also recommends updating the appendix of PSAC members to include new groups that are represented.
In announcing plans to establish the Chief Customer Office, FirstNet officials described it as part of the effort to transition from a planning phase to an operational phase once FirstNet awards a contract and deployment of the network begins.
The office will focus “on end-user adoption by public safety and making sure we’re meeting their needs” FirstNet President TJ Kennedy said. He said the plan calls for taking the outreach and consultation functions and adding other functions including communications and marketing. “This is a huge change. I think it’s critically important,” he said.
Board Chairwoman Sue Swenson said she agreed, and she stressed the need for FirstNet to act more quickly on issues. “Today, we have a lot of things where it seems like there’s a lot of people who have to touch things,” she said. “I think we need to question, do all those people need to touch those documents?”
The head of the new Chief Customer Office will be Rich Reed, who is currently FirstNet’s director-state plans.
FirstNet Chief Technology Officer Jeff Bratcher detailed plans to establish a Network Program Office, which he said will handle activities involving state and territory radio access networks (RANs) and plans. “You really need that kind of coordination,” Ms. Swenson said. Mr. Bratcher also discussed efforts by his operation to draft network policies, which he said would be released with state plans. He said the policies would form the basis for interoperability, reflect lessons learned from early builders and PSAC input, set guidelines to FirstNet’s partner, and provide criteria to the FCC and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration in their evaluation of opt-out states’ alternative RAN plans.
Mr. Bratcher also said that the Boulder test lab has been cleared for construction, which should be completed in December.
FirstNet Chief Executive Officer Mike Poth alluded to the authority’s plan to award a contract by Nov. 1. “We’re optimistic that we’re going to stay on schedule, but that’s not just a layup,” he said. “There is a lot more work to do.”
Mr. Reed stressed, as other FirstNet officials have in recent months, that states that decide to opt out of having the FirstNet partner build their RANs face a likely lengthy and uncertain path. For example, he noted, review processes by the FCC, NTIA, and FirstNet have no defined deadlines, adding that timelines are likely to be “significant.” By contrast, states that don’t opt out could see deployment occurring rapidly, he said.
Also during today’s meetings, FirstNet Chief Financial Officer Kim Farington provided an update on the financial picture for FY 2016, which ends Sept. 30. “We are doing well keeping up with our obligations and expense budget,” she said.
She noted that FirstNet budgeted nearly $126 million in obligations for FY 2016 and $92.1 million in expenses. As of May 31, FirstNet had obligated nearly $57.8 million and spent $45.7 million, she said.
Ms. Farington also said that the formulation of the FY 2017 budget started in March, and she said guidance was developed to streamline the process. She said the plan is to present the budget to Finance Committee Chairman Jim Douglas on July 22, to the Finance Committee on Aug. 1, and to the full board on Aug. 26. She also cited progress on FirstNet’s five-year strategic plan and said that the plan will be linked to employee performance
In other FirstNet personnel news, the FirstNet board’s new secretary is Karen Miller-Kuwana, while the new designee on the board for Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch is Amy Hess, executive assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Science and Technology Branch. Ms. Miller-Kuwana previously practiced labor and employment law in the private sector and in the Department of Labor’s Civil Rights Division.
Board members also met in closed session today to discuss personnel issues. – Paul Kirby, firstname.lastname@example.org