Commerce Secretary nominee Ross expresses support for ‘concept’ of FirstNet
Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee members today approved President Donald Trump's Commerce Secretary nominee Wilbur Ross, who expressed support for the ‘concept’ of FirstNet during his nomination hearing last week.
Ross, 79, was approved by a voice vote of the committee, and multiple media outlets indicated that he is expected to be approved by a vote of the full Senate with little resistance. During the same meeting, the committee also approved Transportation Secretary nominee Elaine Chao, 63, by a voice vote.
Ross is expected to be very active in the negotiation of international trade deals, but last week he also fielded a question from Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.), who noted that FirstNet has made significant progress but continues to face “a good number of challenges.” Thune asked Ross to commit to being “engaged” and to informing the committee if he observes “any waste, fraud or abuse” within FirstNet.
“I certainly support the concept of FirstNet,” Ross said during the hearing, which was webcast. “I gather there is some controversy in some states about it, and I gather there have been some technical issues—I’m obviously not yet conversant with them. But the idea of giving the first responders all of the tools that you can imagine that could be useful has to be the right direction to go. So I’m certainly supportive of that.
“And, to the degree that there are issues with it, I’ll do my best—if confirmed—to try to figure out how to overcome them.”
FirstNet is tasked with building and operating a nationwide public-safety broadband network. Court documents and SEC filings indicate that the evaluation team—headed by the U.S. Department of Interior, on behalf of FirstNet—has named a consortium headed by AT&T as the only bidding team to reach the “competitive range” stage of the procurement for the 25-year nationwide contract.
However, Rivada Mercury—another bidding team led by Rivada Networks—is protesting its exclusion from the “competitive range” stage in litigation before the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. Although Rivada Mercury submitted a heavily redacted filing at the outset of the litigation, all recent filings in the case have been sealed from public view.
Final written briefs in the case currently are scheduled to be filed in mid-February, and court documents indicate that FirstNet would not award the nationwide contract before March 1.