FirstNet finance-committee members yesterday recommended that the full board adopt a $126 million budget for the 2016 fiscal year that would fund the ongoing request-for-proposal (RFP) process, cybersecurity efforts and a grant program to pay for the spectral relocation of 700 MHz narrowband systems currently operating in Band 14.

On Aug. 17, the full FirstNet board—including new board member and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Controller David Mader, who has replaced Geovette Washington after she joined the University of Pittsburgh’s administration—will consider the recommended budget for approval during a special meeting. FirstNet’s fiscal year 2016 begins on Oct. 1.

As expected, most of the proposed budget—almost $86 million—is allocated to acquisition activities associated with the RFP process, in terms of both finalizing the RFP and executing the evaluation process after offers are submitted. Current plans call for FirstNet to issue its final RFP by the end of the year—a timeline that FirstNet Acting Executive Director TJ Kennedy said is still realistic.

“Based upon the information we have today, we believe that date is still a valid date,” Kennedy said during the meeting.

Kennedy said FirstNet received “terrific” response to its draft RFP documents, and staff members are still trying to evaluate all of the input.

“As we come into the September board meeting and into the fall, I think it’s going to be very important for us to report out on those capability statements and all of the comments that we’ve received,” he said. “We will then give an update to see if there is any adjustment to that date or not.”

This portion of the budget also calls for the establishment of a grant program to pay for an oft-overlooked aspect of the FirstNet endeavor: the need to clear existing public-safety 700 MHz narrowband systems from the Band 14 spectrum that FirstNet will use for its broadband system. These systems were established before the FCC reshuffled 700 MHz allocations to enable public-safety broadband services to be offered on those airwaves in 2007.

Kennedy said there are “13 or so” public-safety systems that need to relocated to different spectrum, so FirstNet and its potential partners can begin utilizing the spectrum after the RFP award is made.

“We want to make sure that they can have a seamless transition, if they are operating a narrowband network or other resources that are in the Band 14 spectrum that FirstNet and public safety plans to utilize for broadband,” Kennedy said. “We have narrowed this down to a small number of entities across the country.

“We have been reaching out to them and have some initial estimates. [We] plan to work with them to implement a grant program to really make sure that we have spectrum that is free and clear for the FirstNet network to be deployed, and also so that any offerers on the RFP would know and expect to have spectrum that is ready to be utilized as soon as the RFP is awarded.”