The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) has released its final programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) for the West Region. “Now that this PEIS has been completed and once a Record of Decision (ROD) has been signed, the proposed FirstNet projects can begin to submit the site-specific environmental documentation to determine if the proposed project has been adequately evaluated in the PEIS or whether it instead warrants a Categorical Exclusion, an Environmental Assessment, or an Environmental Impact Statement,” according to a notice in today’s “Federal Register.”
IDAHO – Nearly 100 federal, state, and local public safety and private organizations gathered last week to test tactics and technologies to identify, locate and mitigate illegal jamming of communications systems, such as GPS, radio and wireless systems.
The 2017 First Responder Electronic Jamming Exercise (JamX 17) was hosted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) July 16-22, at the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Representatives from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Coast Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Marine Corps Warfighter Laboratory, joined nearly 300 participants from across the country.
“For the first responders who are charged with protecting our communities, communications are a lifeline. Americans rely on first responders, and responders rely on their ability to communicate,” said Acting Under Secretary for Science and Technology William N. Bryan. “S&T is committed to ensuring that responders have the tools they need for consistent, uninterrupted communications – its mission critical.”
Jamming devices are illegal, and may delay emergency response times, escalate hazardous situations, or result in loss of life. S&T’s First Responder Electronic Jamming Exercise initiative is combatting illegal jamming threats through
“Last year, S&T’s jamming exercise assessed jamming vulnerabilities in responder communications systems,” said Sridhar Kowdley, JamX 17 exercise director from S&T’s First Responders Group. “This year, the focus was on evaluating solutions to increase communications resiliency by helping responders recognize, respond to, report and resolve jamming incidents.”
S&T and JamX 17 participants will analyze the results from the exercise to provide recommendations and operational tools for public safety and law enforcement agencies. “Homeland security starts with hometown security,” said Mr. Bryan. “Mitigating the potential impacts of jamming is vital to ensure the security of American communities.”
“Cybersecurity is a global sport!” That is the worldview Dr. Douglas Maughan takes when it comes to fighting cyber-threats. Maughan, director of the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate’s (S&T) Cyber Security Division (CSD), uses that phrase to spotlight the partnerships S&T has with numerous government and international cybersecurity entities around the world.
Because of this need for a global focus, CSD has established active partnerships with cybersecurity organizations in 13 countries—including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Singapore and Israel—and an international body—the European Union.
A shining example of a mutually beneficial partnership is the cooperative relationship CSD enjoys with its counterparts in the Netherlands: the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) and the country’s National Cyber Security Center (NCSC), part of the Ministry of Security and Justice.
The U.S.-Dutch research-and-development (R&D) partnership spans numerous years and encompasses a range of activities, capped most recently with the announcement of an innovative $2.6million funding opportunity that promotes the formation of joint U.S.-Dutch research teams.
The goal of this newest initiative—announced mid-May—is to strengthen R&D collaboration between top cybersecurity researchers from both nations. The two research focus areas for the bilateral call are Industrial Control Systems/Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) and Distributed Denial of Service Defenses. In all, the partners plan to fund up to five unified research proposals that detail a full program of work to be conducted by teams comprised of academia, industry and laboratory (U.S. only) researchers from both countries. Continue reading
Washington, DC—To increase law enforcement capabilities to identify, collect and analyze evidentiary data from consumer and professional drones, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) has awarded a $928,541 research-and-development contract to VTO Inc. of Broomfield, Colorado.
The award is part of the S&T Cyber Security Division’s (CSD) Cyber Forensics project, which develops cost-effective and novel cyber forensics solutions that help law enforcement keep pace with advances in technology. The project focuses on development of new capabilities to help law enforcement with the forensic investigations of digital evidence from various devices such as mobile phones and automobile infotainment systems.
“Drones are an emerging area of interest for law enforcement because they contain data that may be key in criminal investigations,” said Acting DHS Under Secretary for Science and Technology William N. Bryan. “Like other digital devices such as computers and phones, law enforcement agencies require new capabilities to recover evidence from drones and their cameras, sensors and other devices. This project will deliver these capabilities.”
The drone forensics work will focus on conducting cutting-edge research that will address key aspects of collecting digital forensics data from drone systems. During the research, VTO will target the identification and definition of the various data types residing on drones and their connected systems, including drone board systems, flight controllers, connected mobile devices and computers, onboard cameras, and network communications between a drone and its controller. The company also will seek to identify each drone’s data-acquisition method, including logical and physical acquisition opportunities such as circuit board-level interface (JTAG) and flash-memory removal (chip-off) to identify data artifacts on drones. Continue reading
The FCC’s Connect2Health Task Force plans to convene several “virtual listening sessions” between now and late September “to more efficiently facilitate targeted input on broadband health issues (including on the rural/urban gap and other digital divide issues) from non-traditional stakeholders and those outside the Washington, D.C., area,” according to a public notice released by the FCC today.
The input from the listening sessions will assist the task force in developing recommendations for the FCC on regulatory, policy, technical, and infrastructure issues related to the broadband-enabled health care ecosystem (TR Daily, April 24).
The public notice also said that the formal comment period for General docket 16-46 will remain open until Sept. 29, “to give interested parties an opportunity to file additional comments and information following the completion of the virtual listening sessions. Parties have also expressed interest in submitting comments and suggestions for enhancements related to the Mapping Broadband Health in America platform released on June 8, 2017, and this extension will facilitate such filings.”
Each listening sessions is expected to last about an hour. Transcripts of the sessions will be made publicly available on the FCC’s website. Parties interested in participating in the listening sessions should contact the task force by July 28 via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, with “Virtual Listening Session” in the subject line.
The tentative schedule for the listening sessions include sessions to hear from health care providers; rural and consumer stakeholders; technology and broadband stakeholders; and policy-makers at all levels of government. —Lynn Stanton, email@example.com
AT&T, Inc., which has the 25-year contract to build the nationwide public safety broadband network being overseen by the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), has hired Harlin McEwen, former chairman of FirstNet’s Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC), as a consultant.
The House communications and technology subcommittee plans to hold a hearing July 25 on oversight and reauthorization of the FCC. The hearing is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. in room 2123 of the Rayburn House Office Building and will feature all three Commissioners. “I look forward to having FCC Chairman [Ajit] Pai and Commissioners [Mike] O’Rielly and [Mignon L.] Clyburn join us to testify before the subcommittee next week,” said subcommittee Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.).
“This hearing is an opportunity for our members to discuss and provide input on priorities for the agency, most importantly, creating the right conditions for expanding broadband’s reach across America. I’m hopeful that this hearing will also allow for a robust discussion regarding efforts to modernize the FCC’s structure and build on the steps Chairman Pai has already taken toward transparency and accountability.” A news release said that “members will consider legislation that will reauthorize the FCC while implementing a number of reforms aimed at improving the agency’s processes and practices. Finally, members will use this hearing as an opportunity to discuss the FCC’s critically important Lifeline program and the needed improvements identified recently by the GAO.”
What GAO Found
The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) has conducted key efforts to establish the network, namely releasing the request for proposal (RFP) for the network and awarding the network contract to AT&T. As the contractor, AT&T will be responsible for the overall design, development, production, operation, and evolution of the network. Additionally, FirstNet consulted with state and local, federal, and tribal stakeholders. State officials GAO contacted were generally satisfied with FirstNet’s efforts to engage them. However, tribal stakeholders GAO contacted expressed concern that FirstNet has not fully engaged in effective communication with tribes.
Read complete GAO Report.
FirstNet engaged tribes through a variety of mechanisms, such as through state points of contact and a working group, but tribes noted that individuals with first-hand knowledge of tribes’ experiences are unable to represent tribal views directly among FirstNet’s key decision makers. Although FirstNet is required to consult with tribes through state points of contact, a key principle of effective tribal communication is to seek full understanding of tribal concerns and reach consensus where possible. By fully exploring and proposing actions to address tribal stakeholders’ concerns, FirstNet could help improve its relations with tribes and better meet stakeholders’ needs.
According to stakeholders GAO contacted, FirstNet faces various challenges to ensure the network’s reliability, security, and interoperability. For example, stakeholders raised concerns related to:
- providing coverage to rural areas, in buildings, or underground;
- ensuring the network’s overall resiliency and cybersecurity; and
- managing frameworks for user identity, credentialing of users, access management, and prioritization of users on the network.
MCPTT over LTE and Direct Mode
[Not quite] Mission Critical PTT over LTE is being tested and put into service for live network beta testing. Two things are missing from these trials and tests: a mission-critical or public safety-grade network for the Mission Critical Push-To-Talk application to run over and perhaps more importantly, the way forward to provide direct-mode communications. The UK’s LTE system for public safety to go live in 2020 and replace its existing Tetra system is probably, at the moment, the most robust of the existing LTE networks available.
Recently in France, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) held MCPTT testing sessions and a number of vendors participated to see how well they performed and if they met the 3GPP Release of LTE version 13, which includes specifications for on-network push-to-talk services but does not yet address the issue of direct-mode on and off-network communications. In many instances, direct-mode PTT is as important and in some instances, more important than network-based PTT services. While I recently wrote an Advocate about PTT over LTE and over Land Mobile Radio (LMR) that detailed some of this information, there are a number of things happening in Europe and especially the United Kingdom that could have far reaching effects on how and when PTT services are actually deployed over LTE on and off-network systems. Read the full blog here Continue reading
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has informed the FCC that it plans to conduct another nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) on September 27. A secondary date for the test would be October 4, FEMA told the Commission in a July 14 ex parte filing in PS docket 15-94.
The second nationwide EAS test was held last September (TR Daily, Sept. 28, 2016). In April, the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau released a report that recommended the agency take several actions in the wake of last year’s nationwide EAS test, including encouraging the use of FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) as the primary source of alerts and examining how to improve and expand IPAWS alert content (TR Daily, Apr. 21).