Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

January 25, 2006

DHS CFO discusses challenges of interoperability

Filed under: State and Local HLS,Technology for HLS — by Christian Beckner on January 25, 2006

Washington Technology has a story tonight that quotes DHS CFO Andrew Maner on the difficulties of developing interoperable communications:

The Homeland Security Department is making slow progress in its efforts to achieve interoperability in first responder communications, Andrew Maner, the department’s chief financial officer, said at an academic conference today.

Lack of compatible radio and data communications among first responders became a major issue after 9/11 because of the inability of some firefighters, police and emergency medical personnel at the World Trade Center disaster scene to communicate by radio. It’s a longstanding problem affecting most public safety agencies nationwide.

“Interoperability is a very interesting topic—a source of pride and frustration,” Maner said at a homeland security budget conference at George Washington University, sponsored by Equity International Inc. business development firm.

“It’s one of our primary goals,” Maner said. “But I don’t know the breaking point for this—how much money it is going to take to achieve it. It feels endless. I feel like we should make more progress.”

I wrote about this issue in this post last month, linking in it to a USA Today story on the topic. I agree that there’s no easy answer to this issue, and think that developing expensive and brand new common systems might not be best use of homeland security funds if we look at it from a cost vs. security benefit perspective. Efforts should focus heavily on workaround tools that can virtually integrate existing systems rather than starting from scratch.

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