The FirstNet Initiative: A Rare Opportunity in the Federal, State & Local Arena

Tomas OKeefe_65x85by Tomas O’Keefe, Senior Analyst

It’s not often that there are opportunities that stretch across multiple federal government agencies that also expand in to the state & local space, but they do occur from time to time. The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) initiative is one of those rare opportunities that you will want to keep an eye on. FirstNet is still in its infancy, more or less, as the program management office is still being stood up and standards are still being discussed among the component agencies that will work in concert to develop the network like Commerce’s National Telecommunications & Information Administration and folks within DHS’s National Protection and Programs Directorate.

First responders in the United States use a variety of old and outdated devices, such as Land Mobile Radios (LMRs), to receive and coordinate communications when undertaking their duties. FirstNet aims to introduce new devices that are more reliable and can take advantage of new technologies to put more resiliency in the hands of police, fire fighters, and other public servants. A key component of FirstNet is going to be the software and applications that are going to run on these devices, as well as the host of security and mobility requirements that will enable the devices to function properly regardless of the situation the first responder is in. Keep in mind the additional infrastructure that will also need to be put in place that will surely run the gamut from computing power to networking hardware to storage and additional telecommunications infrastructure.

There was a lot of discussion about FirstNet at AFCEA Bethesda’s Law Enforcement IT Day at the beginning of May, where various stakeholders discussed different components and challenges of this effort to uniform public safety communications. Rear Admiral Ron Hewitt, the Director of Emergency Communications at DHS, constantly noted the challenges of building a network that can cover multiple stakeholders (Federal, State, and Local) and remain cost-effective. TJ Kennedy, the acting General Manager of the FirstNet initiative within DOC’s NTIA, noted that he’s looking for partners within industry to develop this critical network. He is also looking to staff up the government’s program office and hopefully recruit some industry experts to join the federal team.

There’s breadth and depth associated with FirstNet, and products vendors shouldn’t neglect the role they can play in the variety of acquisitions that will undoubtedly happen to make this life-saving network a reality. FirstNet could be a major opportunity for your technologies in mobility, security, and resiliency to make an impact at the federal level, and the potential for growing your business to the state and local arena should be a tempting carrot to ensure that FirstNet is on your radar.

About Tomas O'Keefe
Tom O'Keefe has over 10 years of market research experience as an Analyst and Consultant in the federal space. He also earned an MA in Political Science from George Mason University. He has covered both civilian and defense agencies and has presented to clients ranging from junior-level associates to executives from some of the largest Systems Integrators and contractors in the federal marketplace.

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