Firstnet DISA procurement spectrum management

Mutually assured instruction: FirstNet, DISA team on contracts, spectrum management

Taking  advantage of the Defense Information Systems Agency’s experience with complex IT contracts, officials at FirstNet were able to get help with their contract proposal for the high-speed, nationwide wireless broadband network dedicated to public safety. And DISA got something it needed: more experience with spectrum management.

Lt. Gen. Alan Lynn, DISA director and commander of Joint Force Headquarters-Department of Defense Information Networks, said the first responders turned to DISA "because we have a good contracting arm for IT. We helped their team through what an initial contract should look like." DISA will continue to help FirstNet with contracting and technical issues as needed, he added during a Nov. 10 event hosted by AFCEA DC.

Lynn said there lessons for DOD to learn by working on shared-spectrum management issues with FirstNet as well. "It's a great place for us to be because if we can get to better shared spectrum," DOD would benefit, Lynn said.

DOD has been moving some of its systems off specific spectrum to make way for commercial use, and Pentagon officials, including Lynn, are looking for better ways to share spectrum rather than lose a limited, valuable resource by handing it over to the private sector.

Using nationwide 700 MHz spectrum, FirstNet is intended to put an end to decades-long interoperability and communications challenges and help keep our communities and emergency responders safer. The FirstNet effort involves a careful orchestration of that spectrum across the United States and other techniques that DOD could find valuable in managing its spectrum, including how to secure it.

FirstNet officials expect to release the final request for proposals for the public safety communications network in early 2016, although they have told Congress that they are still aiming for a release by the end of 2015.

"They've got a mandate to build out the next national network that's got to be secure," Lynn said. "We're ready to play in any areas they want us to help with."

The network has been designed to allow public safety personnel at the state, local, tribal and federal levels to communicate with one another and share data via dedicated mobile broadband spectrum. The effort was funded with $7 billion in proceeds from the recent and highly successful Advanced Wireless Service 3 spectrum auction conducted by the Federal Communications Commission. The goal is for FirstNet to use network fees and income generated from the lease of excess capacity to become self-sustaining.

A version of this article originally appeared on FCW, a sister site to GCN.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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