FirstNet should take measures to ensure that its nationwide public-safety broadband network is not victimized by the kind of data breaches and cyberattacks that have plagued other federal-government entities, several members of a House subcommittee said during a hearing last week.

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) cited “massive security breaches” at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as incidents that must be avoided by FirstNet, which is designed to communicate a host of sensitive information about first-response entities and the people they are supposed to protect.

“In order to prevent the breach of sensitive FirstNet data, cybersecurity has to be a core focus,” Eshoo said during the hearing, which was webcast. “The continuation of the unraveling of the OPM, IRS and other agencies that have the massive security breaches should be instructive to FirstNet, because you’re going to have to utilize the most innovative security technologies available.

“I think that, in doing so, it will not only lessen the chance of a widespread breach and prevent disruption, but there is a word that is so operational in this, and that is ‘confidence’—confidence in the system by all of the users.

FirstNet President TJ Kennedy testified that the FirstNet RFP includes a section devoted to cybersecurity, reiterating the organization’s long-stated philosophy on the matter.

“We’ve always envisioned that we’re building in security from Day 1—we’re not just tacking it on at the end. We also want to leverage the best practices from the private sector, as well as within government …”

At that point, Kennedy was interrupted by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who indicated that she is not impressed with the results of federal-government cybersecurity efforts.

“Let’s stop right there, because government networks obviously—the OPM breach, NASA—they’re not secure,” Blackburn said. “Whether it is an encryption issue or whatever, we know there are some gaping holes—if you will—that are there, so I don’t think that is the standard that we want to hold up.”