Let’s get to it
There is a lot to be said about the American Experience — even given its imperfections. The ability of Americans to innovate, develop and achieve great accomplishments is known to the world at large. It now is time to take that same unique sense of purpose and drive to create a world-class, public-safety infrastructure to serve the needs of the nation’s first responders and citizens, through the 21st century. Yes, it’s a complex issue with lots of powerful and fractious constituencies that must resolve the thorny issues preventing us from achieving the modern, fully capable systems that are so within our reach — but that’s what democracy is all about. How can we talk about going back to the moon — or to Mars, much less — and leave public-safety communications undone?
As a public service, here are a few suggestions for getting it done:
Spectrum/policy: We need to, once and for all, deliver the spectrum and coverage — across a nationwide footprint — that delivers the voice, data and video capabilities necessary for future-proof, innovative, public-safety communications, period Everyone knows about the powerful constituencies and the strong tug of money that swirls around the spectrum arena. But let’s look at the airwaves as the national resource they are and set aside the spectrum that will best serve the public-safety needs of citizens — our greatest resource. Given the billions of dollars we are pouring into Iraq and Afghanistan, how can shortchange our citizens and first responders right here at home?
Funding: We need the political will to create the funding for these systems and, while we’re making lists, let’s also stop “stealing” the funds meant for public-safety communications that keep getting moved around the financial kitchen table to cover some other shortfall or legislative wish list. Legislators, do your jobs: protect your citizens and the public-safety professionals that put their lives on the line and provide the necessary funds to make this happen. And while I’m on the soapbox, let’s find ways to make these funds accessible in a practical manner — not some grant process that requires its own four year educational course for applicants to participate.
Public-safety resolve: Public safety needs to understand where it is part of the problem. Too many fiefdoms, egos and conflicting agendas hinder the way forward, and in too many cases have made it easy to divide and conquer the first responder community. Yes, cooperation is improving, but it needs to happen faster — preferably now. If public safety wants the best technology and innovation has to offer, it has to pull together more effectively than it is doing today.