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9/11: A Government Changed
The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks forced the government to transform. The change has been both subtle and dramatic, encompassing everything from building security, to computer security, to how agencies hire and perform background checks. In the 10 years since that fateful day, the government also has created new things, including an entire agency. But maybe the biggest change has been the influx of federal employees inspired to serve. Federal News Radio evaluates the impact these changes have made on how the government meets this crucial mission and on the employees and contractors who are called upon daily to protect the homeland.
DHS: Smartphones 'next stage' of emergency communications
Thursday - 8/25/2011, 10:39am EDT
Federal News Radio
Since 9/11, the government has made "significant progress" in emergency communications, said Greg Schaffer, the acting deputy undersecretary of the Homeland Security Department's National Protection and Programs Directorate.
But the next step of emergency communications will have to include smartphone-like capabilities and probably partnerships with the private sector, Schaffer said.
For the past 50 years, first-responders and law enforcement officials have relied on land mobile devices, like walkie talkies. In an emergency event — like this week's earthquake — the two-way radio is reliable, especially as cell phone networks become overtaxed.
These devices, however, are expensive and do not have the "data capability that the average college student has on a smartphone," Schaffer said. For example, emergency responders cannot take and send photos and video of a scene from their communication devices.
Tapping into the private sector market could save money for agencies, allowing government to take advantage of the economies of scale, he said.
Smartphone use among first responders will require a cellular network that can handle the activity. Currently, the Wireless Priority Service and the Government Emergency Telecommunications Service prioritizes calls for federal, state and local law enforcement, emergency and other government officials.
The administration has proposed creating a broadband public safety network. The proposal commits $10.7 billion for a nationwide buildout, Government Technology reports.
"In these fiscal moments, we're all thinking about what makes the most sense and analyzing where investments ought to be made," Schaffer said.
"The beauty of this particular proposal is that it really is focused on delivering a capability that would be more cost effective over the long run than continuing to try to do other things," he said.
Right now, he said, "The ball is in Congress' court."
Schaffer's interview is part of Federal News Radio's special report "9/11: A Government Changed."