Commerce Department vet Lisa Casias named as Deputy CEO for the FirstNet Authority
U.S. Department of Commerce veteran Lisa Casias was announced as the new Deputy CEO for the FirstNet Authority during yesterday’s open meeting of the organization’s board members.
FirstNet Authority board Chairman Ed Horowitz introduced Casias as a “recent addition to our leadership team,” noting that she comes to the FirstNet Authority from the U.S. Department of Commerce. Within the Commerce Department, Casias served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Administration within the office of the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and as Assistant Secretary for Administration.
“[Casias] celebrated her 28th year of government service last week, so we’re grateful for her being here,” Horowitz said during the board meeting, which was webcast. “She’s actually not new to FirstNet. She was the Deputy CFO for Commerce during the time when the work was done and the approval was made for the NPSBN request for proposal in 2015 and 2016.
“She has a deep understanding of our mission and unique public-private-partnership business model, and also has served as a strong advocate for FirstNet success within the Department [of Commerce]. I think that Lisa’s financial expertise will serve us well as we move forward with our investment planning and other priorities, particularly as it relates to communicating those things throughout the government-oversight bureaus. She also will have oversight responsibility over the enterprise risk management and will report to the Governance Committee on that matter.”
The FirstNet Authority’s Governance and Personnel Committee—led by Horowitz—was given oversight of enterprise risk management through a resolution approved yesterday by FirstNet Authority board members. Previously, enterprise risk management was a matter overseen by the organization’s Finance Committee.
Casias began working as Deputy CEO for the FirstNet Authority this week, according to a FirstNet Authority spokesperson. Casias was present during the FirstNet Authority board meeting but did not speak, and her appointment was not mentioned in any press release issued by the FirstNet Authority or the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Casias, a certified public accountant, received the 2009 Presidential Distinguished Rank Award and has served as the National President of the Association of Government Accountants, according to her biography on the FirstNet Authority web site.
Casias was announced as the FirstNet Authority’s Deputy CEO as the organization has been without a permanent CEO for more than a year
Former CEO Mike Poth resigned his position with the organization in the fall of 2018. Ed Parkinson, the FirstNet Authority’s external-affairs executive director, served as acting CEO for six months as the search for a new CEO was initiated. After that six-month period, Parkinson had the acting CEO label removed from his title, and he has been splitting the organization’s CEO duties with CTO Jeff Bratcher.
In 2012, Congress approved legislation that established the FirstNet Authority as “an independent authority within the NTIA [National Telecommunications and Information Administration],” which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Traditionally, appointments to the FirstNet Authority board have been made by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce—a spot currently held by Wilbur Ross.
The 2012 law establishing the FirstNet Authority provided the organization with 20 MHz of 700 MHz D Block spectrum and $7 billion in federal funding. The FirstNet Authority is responsible for ensuring the buildout and maintenance of a nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) that is “self-funding.”
Casias was with the U.S. Department of Commerce as the FirstNet Authority initiated its procurement seeking a nationwide contractor for the NPSBN. That process resulted in the selection of AT&T as the nationwide contractor of the FirstNet system in March 2017.
Under the 25-year agreement with the FirstNet Authority, AT&T is able to leverage the D Block spectrum for its networks throughout the contract period and can receive up to $6.5 billion in payments from the FirstNet Authority by meeting certain buildout milestones. In return, AT&T is responsible for building and maintaining the NPSBN and making annual payments totaling $18 billion to the FirstNet Authority.
Of this $18 billion in AT&T payments, about $3 billion is expected to fund FirstNet Authority operations, and about $15 billion is slated to fund enhancements to the FirstNet system.