Updated: FirstNet board expected to get at least three new members, new leadership as early as August
[Editor's note: This story was updated on July 23 to correct the fact that U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross will make the FirstNet board appointments and name the new chairperson for the FirstNet board. NTIA Administrator David Redl plays an important role in the selection of FirstNet board members, but Ross makes the appointments. IWCE's Urgent Communications regrets the error and apologizes for any confusion it caused.]
Significant changes in the FirstNet board could occur as early as next month, as U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross is expected to name at least three new members and a new chairperson for the body overseeing the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN).
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) received applications from 18 people seeking to serve on the FirstNet board, according to Marsha MacBride, associate administrator for NTIA’s Office of Public Safety Communications. Five board positions are available this year, McBride said during the June open meeting of the FirstNet board.
“We are very hopeful that will be done in a timely fashion,” McBride said during the FirstNet board meeting.
Typically, the NTIA administrator has announced FirstNet board selections during the latter part of August or shortly after. Last year, the 2017 FirstNet board selections were not announced until January 2018, because the U.S. Senate did not vote to confirm David Redl as NTIA administrator—a position that serves a key role in the FirstNet board selection process—until November 2017.
By law, the FirstNet board consists of 15 members, with three being representatives from the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Justice. The other 12 members—at least four of whom are required to be public-safety representatives—are selected by the NTIA administrator to serve three-year terms.
This year, there are five FirstNet board positions to fill—four board members with expiring terms and one seat that was not filled when Ross announced board appointments in January.
Kevin McGinnis, a member of the original FirstNet board appointed in 2012 whose term is expiring in August, is not eligible to return after serving two terms.
Neil Cox, Ed Horowitz and Annise Parker are the other FirstNet board members with expiring terms. McBride said that two board members are seeking to serve a second term on the FirstNet, but she did not identify them.
In addition to the expiring terms, the FirstNet board has an opening that was created when Redl did not announce a replacement in January for James Douglas, the FirstNet board member who previously served as governor of Vermont. In January, Beltway sources indicated that NTIA hoped to appoint a governor or former governor to the FirstNet board during this round of appointments.
FirstNet’s board will get a new leader, as Chairwoman Sue Swenson is required to step down after serving four years at the helm of the organization. Swenson will remain on the FirstNet board for another year, as her term does not expire until August 2019.
Ross will name the new chair for the FirstNet board.
FirstNet’s board also will get at least three new members next year. At that time, Swenson, Jeff Johnson and Teri Takai each will have served two full terms—as well as an additional year that they served as original members of the FirstNet board—and will not be eligible to continue serving as the FirstNet board members.