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NCJ Number: 204339 Find in a Library
Title: Homeland Security: Challenges in Achieving Interoperable Communications for First Responders
Corporate Author: US Government Accountability Office
United States of America
Project Director: William O. Jenkins
Date Published: November 2003
Page Count: 21
Sponsoring Agency: NCJRS Photocopy Services
Rockville, MD 20849-6000
US Government Accountability Office
Washington, DC 20013
US Government Accountability Office
Washington, DC 20548
Publication Number: GAO-04-231T
Sale Source: US Government Accountability Office
P.O. Box 37050
Washington, DC 20013
United States of America

NCJRS Photocopy Services
Box 6000
Rockville, MD 20849-6000
United States of America
Document: PDF
Type: Issue Overview
Format: Document (Online)
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This report examines the barriers to improved interoperable communications for first responders.
Abstract: The Federal Government has been concerned about problems with interoperable communications issues for over 15 years. Federal, State, and local governments face three main challenges in addressing interoperability problems in their wireless communications: (1) clearly identifying and defining the problem; (2) whether and how to develop national interoperability performance goals and standards; and (3) defining the roles of Federal, State, and local governments in defining the problem, implementing national goals and standards, and assessing alternative means of meeting goals and standards. The first identified challenge to overcoming the interoperability problem is a lack of a clear definition of the problem. Interoperability is not only a technological issue, it is a means of achieving the objective of a coordinated response to emergencies. In order to establish an operational definition of the range of interoperability capacity needs requires a definition of who is in charge and who would need to communicate what types of information under what conditions. After the problem has been successfully defined, the next challenge is to consider whether and how to develop national interoperability goals and standards. A report prepared by the Independent Task Force sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations found that a lack of national standards and requirements for emergency preparedness constitutes a national crisis. Standards should be prepared for Federal, State, and local emergency first responders in areas that include training, interoperable communications systems, and response equipment. The third challenge involves defining the roles of government in defining the problem, implementing standards, and assessing means of meeting goals and standards. In October 2002, the Government Reform Committee recommended that the Federal Government take a leadership role in resolving the communications interoperability problem. The SAFECOM program, established in 2001, serves as an umbrella program within the Federal Government to coordinate an improved public safety response. State and local efforts to address the interoperability problem are also widespread. Despite recent efforts, the main barrier to successfully addressing interoperability problems has been the lack of effective, collaborative, interdisciplinary, and intergovernmental planning. While the interoperability problems of our Nation did not arise overnight, a coordinated effort will help overcome barriers to effective interoperable communications among first responders.
Main Term(s): Emergency communications
Index Term(s): Federal government; Governmental planning; Intergovernmental relations; Local government; State government
Note: Testimony before the Subcommittees of the Government Reform Committee, House of Representatives; downloaded February 25, 2004.
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