Urgent Matters

D’Agostino leaves large shoes to fill for FirstNet

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In the wake of FirstNet General Manager Bill D'Agostino's resignation, the FirstNet board faces the challenge of finding a suitable replacement willing to tackle a position that is even more challenging than it appeared to be when D'Agostino accepted the job a year ago.

“What happened?”

That was the question of the day yesterday, when FirstNet General Manager Bill D’Agostino resigned just days before his first anniversary on the job, forcing the FirstNet board to launch a nationwide search for a replacement

According to a FirstNet press release, D’Agostino resigned “for personal and family reasons.” I don’t know any of D’Agostino’s personal or family situations, but there is little question that the travel schedule he and FirstNet Deputy General Manager TJ Kennedy have been keeping would put a strain on any family relationships, even before you consider the workload and stress that is inherent in those jobs.

This travel schedule is just one of many reasons why finding a suitable replacement for D’Agostino could be challenging for FirstNet. Finding someone with similar attributes certainly will be difficult. Not only did D’Agostino—a former network executive for Verizon—have the experience of running a broadband network, he quickly gained the trust of the public-safety community, which is no small feat.

The good news for the FirstNet board is that the organization should have an idea about many potential candidates, because it completed a nationwide search for the position just a year ago. At that time, board members applauded the quality of the applicants and expressed hope that some of them eventually would become part of FirstNet in other roles.

A year later, the job of general manager is open again. There is no need to rush the search process, but it would behoove FirstNet to replace D’Agostino as quickly as possible to ensure (1) that Kennedy—who already has more than a full-time job as deputy general manager—does not get burned out trying to fill the responsibilities of two roles at the top of the organizational staff chart and (2) that recent momentum from the approval of a program roadmap is not derailed significantly.

The bad news for the FirstNet board is that many of the candidates that applied to be general manager last year may not be available during this search process. In addition, the job has changed considerably in at least one way: During the previous search, there was no FirstNet staff at all, so one of the potential attractions was the opportunity to build a staff as desired from a blank slate. Today, many FirstNet staff positions have been filled.

Discuss this Blog Entry 3

Anonymous (not verified)
on Apr 15, 2014

More of the mess thats been going on since day one...especially this FOIA BS....I don't blame Bill for taking a powder

Anonymous (not verified)
on Apr 15, 2014

I am not disappointed. Having someone from industry will always have an eye toward building and discussing that there is an independent infrastructure. This is why this project still has not significantly progressed. We need someone that will dig into this as a public safety communications manager would, and strip off the ownership requirements and overeaching "technical requirements" and get down to providing exactly what the first responders need. There is really just too much "old school" thinking taking place that is requiring FirstNet to own and control things that have NOTHING to do with actually getting broadband into the hands of the users and then letting it mature with technology advancements. just look at how antiquated the P25 trunked systems that are still being sold and installed are, compared to other communication technologies. I keep hearing and reading about requirements being introduced that are nothing more than an attempt to control an empire of unique infrastructure, and that can only be built by monopolistic vendors. We really need to change this approach and get the right leadership in place to lead us away from this.The core technology already exists and is already the most widely used technology by public safety already. We just need to have governance and change management practices in place to improve it for us.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Apr 15, 2014

This was bond to happen. Hire a private sector executive and treat him like a GS-15 civil servant in a vast bureacracy. Firstnet's biggest mistake was allowing Larry Strickling to require that FirstNet officers ad employees be government employees. The CEO of ICANN (also under NTIA as an independant entity) was making over $700K last I checked.

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Donny Jackson is editor of Urgent Communications magazine. Before joining UC in 2002, he covered telecommunications for four years as a freelance writer and as news editor for Telephony magazine....
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