FirstNet Releases Tribal Consultation Policy

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) released a tribal consultation policy today governing consultation with the U.S.’s 567 federally recognized tribes once states and territories have all made opt-in or opt-out decisions.

“This policy recognizes the importance of working directly with Indian Country for the deployment and operation of the Network and being responsive to the needs of public safety communications on tribal lands,” said FirstNet board member Kevin McGinnis, who is the board’s tribal liaison. “As they serve on the front lines of their communities, we look forward to providing them with reliable, broadband connections and tools that will help them save lives and protect their communities.”  

“Under the policy, FirstNet will continue to follow the tribal consultation requirements established by Congress under FirstNet’s enabling legislation during the governor’s decision period. This means FirstNet will continue to engage with tribes through the 56 state points of contacts (SPOC) during the governor’s opt-in/opt-out decision period,” a news release noted. “Following the governor’s decision, however, FirstNet will consult directly with tribal government officials, in addition to its ongoing consultative activities that ensure full compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). Together, FirstNet’s tribal consultation activities will help influence Network deployment and maintenance for the benefit of tribal public safety entities.”

The news release observed that the tribal consultation policy, which runs just four pages including a cover page, “was developed with the assistance of the FirstNet Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) Tribal Working Group, as well as FirstNet’s engagement with tribal leaders, intertribal organizations, and public safety associations across the country.  In addition to instituting an approach to tribal coordination that honors Executive Order 13175, the policy outlines a set of core principles for tribal engagement, including collaboration, communications, inclusion, and timeliness.”

Executive Order 13175, which was signed by President Bill Clinton in 2000, directs federal agencies and departments to consult and coordinate with tribal governments on policies that might impact tribal communities.- Paul Kirby,