ANSI - American National Standards Institute
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Task Force Planned to Create Interoperable Communications Standards

New York, May 12, 2006

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently announced its intention to assemble a task force to develop standards that will enable interoperability of communications equipment used by emergency personnel across various agencies and jurisdictions.

Speaking at the Tactical Interoperable Communications Conference earlier this week, DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff said that the events of September 11 and Hurricane Katrina vividly demonstrated the inadequacy of communications equipment in facilitating coordination among local, state, and federal response efforts.

“Achieving interoperable communications for those on the front lines of dealing with terrorism or natural disasters is critical to enhancing our country's preparedness and response capabilities,” Chertoff stated.

The announcement came on the heels of a DHS report highlighting the need for the accelerated adoption of interoperability standards for emergency communications devices. [See related article, DHS Calls for Interoperable Communications Device Standards].

“The problems associated with the lack of coordination in the public safety community stem throughout all of our jurisdictional boundaries," said Chertoff. “They include lack of a shared and agreed-upon priority for achieving interoperability, and they also involve limited sharing of interoperability solutions.”

To facilitate coordination, the main thrust of the task force’s initial work will be to reach agreement on terminology and language; proper governance; standard operating procedures; and training on the use of the equipment. First responders will be invited to participate on the task force to identify functional requirements for interoperability and to guide purchasing decisions for the next generation of emergency equipment. The task force will partner with the private sector, all levels of government, and international standards organizations to achieve its goals.

Within the next two weeks, the department will launch the National Baseline Interoperability Survey to assess the current state of interoperability among state and local governments. DHS has called upon seventy-five metropolitan area governments to submit an interoperable communications plan. By the end of the year, each urban area will be asked to submit a public scorecard identifying gaps in interoperability. DHS has also published a communications interoperability planning strategy to guide states in developing their individual plans.

Since 2003, DHS allocated more than $2.1 billion to states for interoperable communications, equipment, planning, and training. The department issued a report this week detailing how that money has been spent to promote interoperability.

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