This is the accessible text file for GAO report number GAO-04-963T 
entitled 'Homeland Security: Federal Leadership and Intergovernmental 
Cooperation Required to Achieve First Responder Interoperable 
Communications' which was released on July 20, 2004.

This text file was formatted by the U.S. General Accounting Office 
(GAO) to be accessible to users with visual impairments, as part of a 
longer term project to improve GAO products' accessibility. Every 
attempt has been made to maintain the structural and data integrity of 
the original printed product. Accessibility features, such as text 
descriptions of tables, consecutively numbered footnotes placed at the 
end of the file, and the text of agency comment letters, are provided 
but may not exactly duplicate the presentation or format of the printed 
version. The portable document format (PDF) file is an exact electronic 
replica of the printed version. We welcome your feedback. Please E-mail 
your comments regarding the contents or accessibility features of this 
document to

This is a work of the U.S. government and is not subject to copyright 
protection in the United States. It may be reproduced and distributed 
in its entirety without further permission from GAO. Because this work 
may contain copyrighted images or other material, permission from the 
copyright holder may be necessary if you wish to reproduce this 
material separately.


Before the Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging 
Threats, and International Relations: 

Committee on Government Reform, House of Representatives: 

United States General Accounting Office: 


For Release on Delivery Expected at 10: 00 a.m. EST: 

Tuesday, July 20, 2004: 

Homeland Security: 

Federal Leadership and Intergovernmental Cooperation Required to 
Achieve First Responder Interoperable Communications: 

Statement of William O. Jenkins, Jr., Director, Homeland Security and 
Justice Issues: 


GAO Highlights: 

Highlights of GAO-04-963T, a testimony before the Subcommittee on 
National Security, Emerging Threats, and International Relations, 
Committee on Government Reform, House of Representatives 

Why GAO Did This Study: 

Lives of first responders and those whom they are trying to assist can 
be lost when first responders cannot communicate effectively as needed. 
This report addresses issues of determining the status of interoperable 
wireless communications across the nation, and the potential roles that 
federal state, local governments can play in improving these 

What GAO Found: 

In a November 6, 2003, testimony, GAO said that no one group or level 
of government could “fix” the nation’s interoperable communications 
problems. Success would require effective, collaborative, 
interdisciplinary and intergovernmental planning. 

The present extent and scope nationwide of public safety wireless 
communication systems’ ability to talk among themselves as necessary 
and authorized has not been determined. Data on current conditions 
compared to needs are necessary to develop plans for improvement and 
measure progress over time. However, the nationwide data needed to do 
this are not currently available. The Department of Homeland Security 
(DHS) intends to obtain this information by the year 2005 by means of a 
nationwide survey. However, at the time of our review, DHS had not yet 
developed its detailed plans for conducting this survey and reporting 
its results. 

The federal government can take a leadership role in support of efforts 
to improve interoperability by developing national requirements and a 
national architecture, developing nationwide databases, and providing 
technical and financial support for state and local efforts to improve 
interoperability. In 2001, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) 
established the federal government’s Wireless Public Safety 
Interoperable Communications Program, SAFECOM, to unify efforts to 
achieve national wireless communications interoperability. However, 
SAFECOM’s authority and ability to oversee and coordinate federal and 
state efforts has been limited by its dependence upon other agencies 
for funding and their willingness to cooperate. OMB is currently 
examining alternative methods to implement SAFECOM’s mission. In 
addition, DHS, where SAFECOM now resides, has recently announced it is 
establishing an Office for Interoperability and Compatibility to 
coordinate the federal response to the problems of interoperability in 
several functions, including wireless communications. The exact 
structure and funding for this office, which will include SAFECOM, are 
still being developed.

State and local governments can play a large role in developing and 
implementing plans to improve public safety agencies’ interoperable 
communications. State and local governments own most of the physical 
infrastructure of public safety communications systems, and states play 
a central role in managing emergency communications. The Federal 
Communications Commission recognized the central role of states in 
concluding that states should manage the public safety interoperability 
channels in the 700 MHz communications spectrum. States, with broad 
input from local governments, are a logical choice to serve as a 
foundation for interoperability planning because incidents of any level 
of severity originate at the local level with states as the primary 
source of support. However, states are not required to develop 
interoperability plans, and there is no clear guidance on what should 
be included in such plans.

What GAO Recommends: 

GAO recommends that the Secretary of DHS (1) continue to develop a 
nationwide database of and common terminology for public safety 
interoperability communications channels; (2) assess interoperability 
in specific locations against defined requirements; (3) through federal 
grant awards encourage state action to establish and support a 
statewide body to develop and implement detailed improvement plans; and 
(4) encourage that grant applications be in compliance with statewide 
interoperability plans, once they are developed. GAO also recommends 
that the Director of OMB work with DHS to review SAFECOM’s functions 
and establish a long-term program with appropriate authority and 
funding to coordinate interoperability efforts across the federal 

DHS generally agreed with our first two recommendations but did not 
specifically address the other recommendations to DHS. OMB had no 

To view the full product, including the scope and methodology, click on 
the link above. For more information, contact William Jenkins at (202) 
512-8777 or

[End of section]

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee: 

I appreciate the opportunity to be here today to discuss the critical 
issue of wireless interoperable communications for first 
responders.[Footnote 1] In testimony last November before this 
subcommittee, we pointed out that the inability of first responders--
police officers, fire fighters, emergency medical service personnel, 
public health officials, and others--to communicate effectively over 
wireless systems with one another as needed during an emergency is a 
long-standing and widely recognized problem in many areas across the 
country.[Footnote 2] Reports have shown that when first responders 
cannot communicate effectively as needed, it can literally cost lives 
of both emergency responders and those they are trying to assist. Thus, 
effective communications between and among wireless communications 
systems used by federal, state, and local public safety agencies is 
generally accepted as not only desirable but essential for the 
protection of life and property. Public safety officials generally 
recognize that effective "interoperable" communications is the ability 
to talk with whom they want, when they want, when authorized, but not 
the ability to talk with everyone all of the time. The effective 
interoperability of wireless systems permits a rapid and coordinated 
response to an emergency incident, whether that incident is a "routine" 
spill from an overturned tanker truck or railcar, a natural disaster, 
or a terrorist attack.

In this statement and in the report we are releasing today,[Footnote 3] 
we examine (1) issues in determining the current interoperable 
communications capabilities of first responders nationwide, including 
the scope and severity of interoperable wireless communications 
problems across the nation; (2) the potential roles that federal, 
state, and local governments can play in improving these 
communications, and (3) how the variety of federal grants for state and 
local first responders may encourage or inhibit the assessment of 
interoperable problems and the development of comprehensive plans to 
address those problems.

In doing our work, we met with federal, state, and local officials, 
obtained and reviewed appropriate documentation, attended several 
meetings of public safety communications officials, and met with staff 
of the National Governors Association. We conducted our work from July 
2003 through June 2004 in accordance with generally accepted government 
auditing standards.


* The fundamental barrier to effectively addressing wireless 
interoperability problems for public safety has been the lack of 
effective, collaborative, interdisciplinary, and intergovernmental 
cooperation and planning.

Defining the Problem: Assessing Current Capabilities: 

* Interoperable communications needs are a function of effective 
incident command planning and operations structure that defines, for 
different circumstances and types of events, who is in charge and what 
types of information--voice, data, or both--would need to be 
communicated to whom under what circumstances.

* The current wireless interoperable communications capabilities of 
first responders nationwide has not been determined. To assess these 
capabilities a set of requirements is needed that can be used to assess 
"what is" compared to "what should be." The Office of Management and 
Budget has designated SAFECOM, within the Department of Homeland 
Security, as the focal point for coordinating federal efforts to 
improve interoperable communications. In April 2004, SAFECOM issued a 
document designed to serve as a set of baseline requirements and is 
working to develop a baseline of current capabilities by July 2005. 
This is a difficult task, and the details of SAFECOM's baseline study 
are still being worked out.

Federal Leadership and Intergovernmental Cooperation Is Needed: 

* The federal, state, and local governments all have important roles in 
assessing interoperability needs, identifying gaps in meeting those 
needs, and developing comprehensive plans for closing those gaps.

* The federal government can provide the leadership, long-term 
commitment, and focus to help state and local governments meet these 
goals. For example, the federal government can provide the leadership 
and support for developing (1) a national architecture that identifies 
communications requirements and technical standards, (2) a national 
database of interoperable communications frequencies, (3) a common 
nomenclature for those frequencies, and (4) statewide interoperable 
communications plans.

* SAFECOM's ability to provide federal leadership and coordination is 
hampered by its dependence upon other federal agencies for funding and 
cooperation. SAFECOM is to negotiate an annual memorandum of 
understanding on funding or program participation with each federal 
agency that OMB has designated as a partner with SAFECOM.

* DHS has recently created the Office of Interoperability and 
Compatibility, which it expects to be fully established by November 
2004. As of June 2004, the exact structure and funding for the office, 
including SAFECOM's role within the office, were still being developed.

* With broad input from local governments and first responders, states 
can serve as focal points for statewide planning to improve 
interoperable communications. The Federal Communications Commission 
has recognized the important role of states by providing them authority 
to administer the interoperability channels within the 700 MHz band of 
communications spectrum.

* Some states are working to develop statewide plans. However, states 
are not required to establish a statewide capability to (1) integrate 
statewide and regional interoperability planning or (2) prepare 
statewide interoperability plans that maximize use of spectrum to meet 
the range of interoperability needs within the state. Nor is there is 
any guidance for states on what such plans should include.

Federal Grant Structure Does Not Support Statewide Planning: 

* The fragmented federal grant structure for first responders does not 
support statewide interoperability planning. SAFECOM has developed 
grant guidance for interoperability, but cannot require that consistent 
guidance be incorporated in all federal first responder grants.

* The structure of some federal grants does not support long-term 
planning efforts because, for example, they did not require a 
communications plan prior to receiving grant funds and required a 1-or 
2-year performance period.

* The federal and state governments lack a coordinated grant review 
process to ensure that funds allocated to local governments are used 
for communication projects that complement each other and add to 
overall statewide and national interoperability capacity.


We recommend that the Secretary of DHS: 

* in coordination with the FCC and the National Telecommunications and 
Information Administration, set target dates for completing the 
development of a nationwide interoperable frequency database and common 
nomenclature for those frequencies;

* establish national interoperable communications requirements and 
assist states in assessing current capacities against those 

* use DHS grant guidance to encourage states to establish a single 
statewide body to assess and develop statewide plans for improving 
interoperable communications; and: 

* at the appropriate time, require through DHS grant guidance that all 
state or local grant applications for equipment purchases conform with 
statewide interoperable communications plans.

We also recommend that the Director of OMB, in conjunction with DHS, 
review the interoperability mission and functions now assigned to 
SAFECOM and establish those functions as a long-term program with 
adequate coordination authority and funding.

DHS generally agreed with the first two recommendations, but did not 
directly address the third and fourth recommendations. OMB had no 
comments on our draft report or recommendations.


Interoperable communications is not an end in itself. Rather, it is a 
necessary means for achieving an important goal--the ability to respond 
effectively to and mitigate incidents that require the coordinated 
actions of first responders, such as multi-vehicle accidents, natural 
disasters, or terrorist attacks. Public safety officials have pointed 
out that needed interoperable communications capabilities are based on 
whether communications are needed for (1) "mutual-aid responses" or 
routine day-to-day coordination between two local agencies; (2) 
extended task force operations involving members of different agencies 
coming together to work on a common problem, such as the 2002 sniper 
attacks in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area; or (3) a major event 
that requires response from a variety of local, state, and federal 
agencies, such as major wildfires, hurricanes, or the terrorist attacks 
of September 11, 2001. A California State official with long experience 
in public safety communications breaks the major event category into 
three separate types of events: (1) planned events, such as the 
Olympics, for which plans can be made in advance; (2) recurring events, 
such as major wildfires and other weather events, that can be expected 
every year and for which contingency plans can be prepared based on 
past experience; and (3) unplanned events, such as the September 11th 
attacks, that can rapidly overwhelm the ability of local forces to 
handle the problem.

Interoperable communications are but one component, although a key one, 
of an effective incident command planning and operations structure. As 
shown in figure 1, determining the most appropriate means of achieving 
interoperable communications must flow from an comprehensive incident 
command and operations plan that includes developing an operational 
definition of who is in charge for different types of events and what 
types of information would need to be communicated (voice, data, or 
both) to whom under what circumstances. Other steps include: 

* defining the range of interoperable communications capabilities 
needed for specific types of events;

* assessing the current capabilities to meet these communications 

* identifying the gap between current capabilities and defined 

* assessing alternative means of achieving defined interoperable 
communications requirements; and: 

* developing a comprehensive plan--including, for example, mutual aid 
agreements, technology and equipment specifications, and training--for 
closing the gap between current capabilities and identified 

Interoperable communications requirements are not static, but change 
over time with changing circumstances (e.g., new threats) and 
technology (e.g., new equipment), and additional available broadcast 
spectrum. Consequently, both a short-and long-term "feedback loop" that 
incorporates regular assessments of current capabilities and needed 
changes is important.

Figure 1: A Planning Process for Interoperable Communications: 

[See PDF for image]

[End of figure]

In addition, the first responder community is extensive and extremely 
diverse in size and the types of equipment in their communications 
systems. According to SAFECOM officials,[Footnote 4] there are over 2.5 
million public safety first responders within more than 50,000 public 
safety organizations in the United States. Local and state agencies own 
over 90 percent of the existing public safety communications 
infrastructure. This intricate public safety communications 
infrastructure incorporates a wide variety of technologies, equipment 
types, and spectrum bands.[Footnote 5] In addition to the difficulty 
that this complex environment poses for federal, state, and local 
coordination, 85 percent of fire personnel, and nearly as many 
emergency management technicians, are volunteers with elected 
leadership. Many of these agencies are small and do not have technical 
expertise; only the largest of the agencies have engineers and 

In the past, a stovepiped, single jurisdiction, or agency-specific 
communication systems development approach prevailed--resulting in 
none or less than desired interoperable communications systems. Public 
safety agencies have historically planned and acquired communications 
systems for their own jurisdictions without concern for 
interoperability. This meant that each state and local agency developed 
communications systems to meet their own requirements, without regard 
to interoperability requirements to talk to adjacent jurisdictions.

For over 15 years, the federal government has been concerned with 
public safety spectrum issues, including communications 
interoperability issues.[Footnote 6] A variety of federal departments 
and agencies have been involved in efforts to define the problem and to 
identify potential solutions, such as the Department of Homeland 
Security (DHS), the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Federal 
Communications Commission (FCC), and the National Telecommunications 
and Information Agency (NTIA) within the Department of Commerce (DOC), 
among others. Today, a combination of federal agencies, programs, and 
associations are involved in coordinating emergency communications.

DHS has several agencies and programs involved with addressing first 
responder interoperable communication barriers, including the SAFECOM 
program, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the Office 
for Domestic Preparedness (ODP). As one of its 24 E-Gov initiatives, 
the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in 2001 created SAFECOM to 
unify the federal government's efforts to help coordinate the work at 
the federal, state, local, and tribal levels to establish reliable 
public safety communications and achieve national wireless 
communications interoperability. The SAFECOM program was brought into 
DHS in early 2003. In June 2003, SAFECOM partnered with the National 
Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the National Institute 
of Justice (NIJ) to hold a summit that brought together over 60 
entities involved with communications interoperability policy setting 
or programs.

Several technical factors specifically limit interoperability of public 
safety wireless communications systems. First, public safety agencies 
have been assigned frequencies in new bands over time as available 
frequencies become congested and as new technology made other 
frequencies available for use. As a result, public safety agencies now 
operate over multiple frequency bands--operating on these different 
bands required different radios because technology was not available to 
include all bands in one radio. Thus, the new bands provided additional 
capabilities but fragmented the public safety radio frequency spectrum, 
making communications among different jurisdictions difficult. Another 
technical factor inhibiting interoperability is the different 
technologies or different applications of the same technology by 
manufacturers of public safety radio equipment. One manufacturer may 
design equipment with proprietary technology that will not work with 
equipment produced by another manufacturer.

Nature and Scope of Interoperable Communication Problems Nationwide Are 

The current status of wireless interoperable communications across the 
nation--including the current interoperable communications 
capabilities of first responders and the scope and severity of the 
problems that may exist--has not been determined. Although various 
reports have documented the lack of interoperability of public safety 
first responders wireless communications in specific locations, 
complete and current data do not exist documenting the scope and 
severity of the problem at the local, state, interstate, or federal 
levels across the nation. Accumulating this data may be difficult, 
however, because several problems inhibit efforts to identify and 
define current interoperable communications capabilities and future 

First, current capabilities must be measured against a set of 
requirements for interoperable communications, and these requirements 
vary according to the characteristics of specific incidents at specific 
locations. Who needs to talk to whom, when they need to talk, and what 
set of communications capabilities should be built or acquired to 
satisfy these requirements depends upon whether interoperable 
communications are needed for day-to-day mutual aid, task force 
operations that occur when members of different agencies come together 
to work on a common problem such as the National Capitol Region sniper 
investigation, or major events such as a terrorist attack. Requirements 
for interoperable communications also may change with the expanding 
definition of first responders--from the traditional police, fire, and 
emergency medical providers to include such professions as health care 
providers and other professions--and the evolution of new technology.

Establishing a national baseline for public safety wireless 
communications interoperability will be difficult because the 
definition of who to include as a first responder is evolving, and 
interoperability problems and solutions are situation specific and 
change over time to reflect new technologies and operational 
requirements. In a joint SAFECOM/AGILE[Footnote 7] program planning 
meeting in December 2003, participants agreed that a national baseline 
is necessary to know what the nation's interoperability status really 
is, to set goals, and to measure progress. However, at the meeting, 
participants said they did not know how they were going to define 
interoperability, how they could measure interoperability, or how to 
select their sample of representative jurisdictions; this was all to be 
determined at a later date. SAFECOM has embarked on an effort to 
establish a national baseline of interoperable communications 
capabilities by July 2005, but SAFECOM is still working out the details 
of the study that would be used to develop the baseline. At the time of 
our review, SAFECOM officials acknowledged that establishing a baseline 
will be difficult and said they are working out the details of their 
baseline study but still expect to complete it by July 2005.

DHS also has other work under way that may provide a tool for such 
self-assessments by public safety officials. An ODP official in the 
Border and Transportation Security Directorate of DHS said ODP is 
supporting the development of a communications and interoperability 
needs assessment for 118 jurisdictions that make up the Kansas City 
region. The official said the assessment will provide an inventory of 
communications equipment and identify how the equipment is used. He 
also said the results of this prototype effort will be placed on a CD-
Rom and distributed to states and localities to provide a tool to 
conduct their own self assessments. SAFECOM officials said they will 
review ODP's assessment tool as part of a coordinated effort and use 
this tool if it meets the interoperability requirements of first 

Second, technical standards for interoperable communications are still 
under development. Beginning in 1989, a partnership between industry 
and the public safety user community developed what is known as Project 
25 (P-25) standards. According to the Public Safety Wireless Network 
(PSWN)[Footnote 8] program office, Project 25 standards remain the only 
user-defined set of standards in the United States for public safety 
communications. DHS purchased radios that incorporate the P-25 
standards for each of the nation's 28 urban search and rescue teams. 
PSWN believes P-25 is an important step toward achieving 
interoperability, but the standards do not mandate interoperability 
among all manufacturers' systems. Standards development continues today 
as new technologies emerge that meet changing user needs and new policy 

Third, new public safety mission requirements for video, imaging, and 
high-speed data transfers, new and highly complex digital 
communications systems, and the use of commercial wireless systems are 
potential sources of new interoperability problems. Availability of new 
spectrum can also encourage the development of new technologies and 
require further development of technical standards. For example, the 
FCC recently designated a new band of spectrum, the 4.9 Gigahertz (GHz) 
band, for use and support of public safety. The FCC provided this 
additional spectrum to public safety users to support new broadband 
applications such as high-speed digital technologies and wireless local 
area networks for incident scene management. The FCC requested in 
particular comments on the implementation of technical standards for 
fixed and mobile operations on the band. NPSTC has established a task 
force that includes work on interoperability standards for the 4.9 GHz 

Federal Leadership and Intergovernmental Cooperation Is Needed: 

The federal government, states, and local governments have important 
roles to play in assessing interoperability needs, identifying gaps in 
meeting those needs, and developing comprehensive plans for closing 
those gaps. The federal government can provide the leadership, long-
term commitment, and focus to help state and local governments meet 
these goals. For example, currently national requirements for 
interoperable communications are incomplete and no national 
architecture exists, there is no standard database to coordinate 
frequencies, and no common nomenclature or terminology exists for 
interoperability channels. States alone cannot develop the requirements 
or a national architecture, compile the nationwide frequency database, 
or develop a common nationwide nomenclature. Moreover, the federal 
government alone can allocate communications spectrum for public safety 

Need to Establish National Requirements and a National Architecture: 

One key barrier to the development of a national interoperability 
strategy has been the lack of a statement of national mission 
requirements for public safety--what set of communications capabilities 
should be built or acquired--and a strategy to get there. A key 
initiative in the SAFECOM program plan for the year 2005 is to complete 
a comprehensive Public Safety Statement of Requirements. The Statement 
is to provide functional requirements that define how, when, and where 
public safety practitioners communicate. On April 26, 2004, DHS 
announced the release of the first comprehensive Statement of 
Requirements defining future communication requirements and outlining 
future technology needed to meet these requirements. According to DHS, 
the Statement provides a shared vision and an architectural framework 
for future interoperable public safety communications. DHS describes 
the Statement of Requirements as a living document that will define 
future communications services as they change or become new 
requirements for public safety agencies in carrying out their missions. 
SAFECOM officials said additional versions of the Statement will 
incorporate whatever is needed to meet future needs but did not provide 
specific details.

A national architecture has not yet been prepared to guide the creation 
of interoperable communications. An explicit, commonly understood, and 
agreed-to blueprint, or enterprise architecture, is required to 
effectively and efficiently guide modernization efforts. For a decade, 
GAO has promoted the use of enterprise architectures, recognizing them 
as a crucial means to a challenging goal--agency operational structures 
that are optimally defined in both business and technological 
environments.[Footnote 9] SAFECOM officials said development of a 
national architecture will take time because SAFECOM must first assist 
state and local governments to establish their communications 
architectures. They said SAFECOM will then collect the state and local 
architectures and fit them into a national architecture that links 
federal communications into the state and local infrastructure.

Standard Databases and Common Nomenclature Not Yet Established: 

Technology solutions by themselves are not sufficient to fully address 
communication interoperability problems in a given local government, 
state, or multi-state region. State and local officials consider a 
standard database of interoperable communications frequencies to be 
essential to frequency planning and coordination for interoperability 
frequencies and for general public safety purposes. Police and fire 
departments often have different concepts and doctrines on how to 
operate an incident command post and use interoperable communications. 
Similarly, first responders, such as police and fire departments, may 
use different terminology to describe the same thing. Differences in 
terminology and operating procedures can lead to communications 
problems even where the participating public safety agencies share 
common communications equipment and spectrum. State and local officials 
have drawn specific attention to problems caused by the lack of common 
terminology in naming the same interoperability frequency.

The Public Safety National Communications Council (NCC), appointed by 
the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was to make recommendations 
for public safety use of the 700 MHz communications spectrum. The NCC 
recommended that the FCC mandate (1) Regional Planning 
Committee[Footnote 10] use of a standard database to coordinate 
frequencies during license applications and (2) specific names be 
designated for each interoperability channel on all pubic safety bands. 
The NCC said that both were essential to achieve interoperability 
because public safety officials needed to know what interoperability 
channels were available and what they were called. In January 2001, the 
FCC rejected both recommendations. It said that the first 
recommendation was premature because the database had not been fully 
developed and tested. The FCC directed the NCC to revisit the issue of 
mandating the database once the database was developed and had begun 
operation. The FCC rejected the common nomenclature recommendation 
because it said that it would have to change the rules each time the 
public safety community wished to revise a channel label. In its final 
report of July 25, 2003, the NCC renewed both recommendations. It noted 
that the FCC had received a demonstration of a newly developed and 
purportedly operational database, the Computer Assisted Pre-
Coordination Resource and Database System (CAPRAD), and that its 
recommendations were consistent with previous FCC actions, such as the 
FCC's designating medical communications channels for the specifc 
purpose of uniform useage.

Converting SAFECOM's Functions To A Long-Term Program: 

In 2001, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) established SAFECOM 
to unify the federal government's efforts to help coordinate work at 
the federal, state, local, and tribal levels in order to provide 
reliable public safety communications and achieve national wireless 
communications interoperability. However, SAFECOM was established as an 
OMB E-Gov initiative with a goal of improving interoperable 
communications within 18-24 months--a timeline too short for addressing 
the complex, long-term nature of the interoperability problem.[Footnote 
11] In addition, the roles and responsibilities of various federal 
agencies within and outside DHS involved in communications 
interoperability have not been fully defined, and SAFECOM's authority 
to oversee and coordinate federal and state efforts has been limited in 
part because it has been dependent upon other federal agencies for 
cooperation and funding and has operated without signed memorandums of 
understanding negotiated with various agencies.

DHS, where SAFECOM now resides, announced in May 2004 that it had 
created an Office for Interoperability and Compatibility within the 
Science and Technology Directorate, to coordinate the federal response 
to the problems of wireless and other functional interoperability and 
compatibility. The new office is responsible for coordinating DHS 
efforts to address interoperability and compatibility of first 
responder equipment, to include both communications equipment and 
equipment such as personal protective equipment used by police and fire 
from multiple jurisdictions. The plan as approved by the Secretary of 
DHS states that by November 2004 the new office will be fully 
established and that action plans and a strategy will be prepared for 
each portfolio (type or class of equipment). The plan presents a budget 
estimate for creation of the office through November 2004 but does not 
include costs to implement each portfolio's strategy. The plans for the 
new office do not clarify the roles of various federal agencies or 
specify what oversight authority the new office will have over federal 
agency communications programs. As of June 2004, the exact structure 
and funding for the office, including SAFECOM's role within the office, 
were still being developed.

Multiple Federal Agencies Have Roles And Responsibilities For 

DHS has not defined how it will convert the current short-term program 
and funding structures to a permanent program office structure. When it 
does, DHS must carefully define the SAFECOM mission and roles in 
relation to other agencies within DHS and in other federal agencies 
that have missions that may be related to the OMB-assigned mission for 
SAFECOM. SAFECOM must coordinate with multiple federal agencies, 
including ODP within DHS, AGILE and the Office for Community Oriented 
Policing Services (COPS)[Footnote 12] in DOJ, the Department of 
Defense, the FCC, the National Telecommunications and Information 
Administration within the Department of Commerce, and other agencies. 
For example, AGILE is the DOJ program to assist state and local law 
enforcement agencies to effectively and efficiently communicate with 
one another across agency and jurisdictional boundaries. The Homeland 
Security Act assigns the DHS Office for Domestic Preparedness (ODP) 
primary responsibility within the executive branch for preparing the 
United States for acts of terrorism, including coordinating or, as 
appropriate, consolidating communications and systems of 
communications relating to homeland security at all levels of 
government. An ODP official said the Homeland Security Act granted 
authority to ODP to serve as the primary agency for preparedness 
against acts of terrorism, to specifically include communications 
issues. He said ODP is working with states and local jurisdictions to 
institutionalize a strategic planning process that assesses and funds 
their requirements. ODP also plans to develop tools to link these 
assessments to detailed interoperable communications plans.

SAFECOM officials also will face a complex issue when they address 
public safety spectrum management and coordination. The National 
Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) within the 
Department of Commerce is responsible for federal government spectrum 
use and the FCC is responsible for state, local, and other nonfederal 
spectrum use. The National Governors' Guide to Emergency Management 
noted that extensive coordination will be required between the FCC and 
the NTIA to provide adequate spectrum and to enhance shared local, 
state, and federal communications. In September 2002, GAO reported that 
FCC and NTIA's efforts to manage their respective areas of 
responsibility were not guided by a national spectrum strategy and had 
not implemented long-standing congressional directives to conduct 
joint, national spectrum planning.[Footnote 13] The FCC and the NTIA 
generally agreed with our recommendation that they develop a strategy 
for establishing a clearly defined national spectrum plan and submit a 
report to the appropriate congressional committees. In a separate 
report, we also discussed several barriers to reforming spectrum 
management in the United States.[Footnote 14] On June 24, 2004, the 
Department of Commerce released two reports entitled Spectrum Policy 
for the 21st Century, the second of which contained recommendations for 
assessing and managing public safety spectrum.

SAFECOM's Authority To Coordinate Federal And State Efforts Is Limited: 

SAFECOM has limited authority to coordinate federal efforts to assess 
and improve interoperable communications. Although SAFECOM has 
developed guidance for use in federal first responder grants, SAFECOM 
does not have authority to require federal agencies to coordinate their 
grant award information. SAFECOM is currently engaged in an effort with 
DOJ to create a "collaborative clearinghouse" that could facilitate 
federal oversight of interoperable communications funding to 
jurisdictions and allow states access to this information for planning 
purposes. The database is intended to decrease duplication of funding 
and evaluation efforts, de-conflict the application process, maximize 
efficiency of limited federal funding, and serve as a data collection 
tool for lessons learned that would be accessible to state and locals. 
However, SAFECOM officials said that the challenge to implementing the 
coordinated project is getting federal agency collaboration and 
compliance. As of February 2004, the database contained award 
information from the 2003 COPS and FEMA interoperability communications 
equipment grants, but no others within or outside DHS.

SAFECOM's oversight authority and responsibilities are dependant upon 
its overall mission. OMB officials told us that they are currently in 
the process of refocusing the mission of the SAFECOM program into three 
specific parts: (1) coordination of federal activities through several 
initiatives, including participation in the Federal Interagency 
Coordination Council[Footnote 15] and establishment of a process for 
federal agencies to report and coordinate with SAFECOM on federal 
activities and investments in interoperability; (2) developing 
standards; and (3) developing a national architecture for addressing 
communications interoperability problems. They said identification of 
all current and planned federal agency communications programs 
affecting federal, state, and local wireless interoperability is 
difficult. According to these officials, OMB is developing a strategy 
to best utilize the SAFECOM program and examining options to enforce 
the new coordination and reporting process. SAFECOM officials said they 
are working to formalize the new reporting and coordination process by 
developing written agreements with other federal agencies and by 
obtaining concurrence of major state and local associations to the 
SAFECOM governance structure. SAFECOM officials noted that this newly 
refocused SAFECOM role does not include providing technical assistance 
or conducting operational testing of equipment. They said that their 
authority to conduct such activities will come from DHS enabling 
directives. SAFECOM officials also said that they have no enforcement 
authority to require other agencies to use the SAFECOM grant guidance 
in their funding decisions or to require agencies to provide grant 
program information to them for use in their database.

State and Local Governments Can Play a Central Role: 

States, with broad input from local governments, can serve as focal 
points for statewide planning to improve interoperable communications. 
The FCC has recognized the important role of states. In its rules and 
procedures, the FCC concluded that because states play a central role 
in managing emergency communications and are usually in control at 
large scale-events and disasters, states should administer the 
interoperability channels within the 700 MHz band of communications 
spectrum. States can play a key role in improving interoperable 
communications by establishing a management structure that includes 
local participation and input to analyze and identify interoperability 
gaps between "what is" and "what should be," developing comprehensive 
local, state, and regional plans to address such gaps, and funding 
these plans. The states we visited or contacted--California, Florida, 
Georgia, Missouri, Washington and a five state Midwest consortium--were 
in various stages of formulating these management structures. However, 
states are not required to establish a statewide management structure 
or to develop interoperability plans, and there is no clear guidance on 
what should be included in such plans. In addition, no requirement 
exists that interoperability of federal communications systems be 
coordinated with state and local government communications systems. The 
use of a standard database on communications frequencies by public 
safety agencies within the state and common terminology for these 
frequencies in preparation and implementation of these statewide 
interoperable plans are essential but are also not required. Without 
planning, coordination, and applicable standards--in other words, 
without a commonly understood and accepted blueprint or national 
architecture--the communications systems developed between and among 
locations and levels of government may not be interoperable.

States are key players in responding to normal all-hazards emergencies 
and to terrorist threats. Homeland Security Presidential Directive 8 
notes that awards to states are the primary mechanism for delivery of 
federal preparedness assistance for these missions. State and local 
officials also believe that states, with broad local and regional 
participation, have a key role to play in coordinating interoperable 
communications supporting these missions. The Public Safety Wireless 
Network (PSWN), in its report on the role of the state in providing 
interoperable communications, agreed. According to the PSWN report, 
state leadership in public safety communications is key to outreach 
efforts that emphasize development of common approaches to regional and 
statewide interoperability. The report said that state officials have a 
vested interest in establishing and protecting statewide wireless 
infrastructures because public safety communications often must cross 
more than one local jurisdictional boundary.[Footnote 16]

However, states are not required to establish a statewide capability to 
(1) integrate statewide and regional interoperability planning and (2) 
prepare statewide interoperability plans that maximize use of spectrum 
to meet interoperability requirements of day-to-day operations, joint 
task force operations, and operations in major events. Federal, state, 
and local officials are not required to coordinate federal, state, and 
local interoperability spectrum resources that, if successfully 
addressed, have significant potential to improve public safety wireless 
communications interoperability. As a result, states may not prepare 
comprehensive and integrated statewide plans that address the specific 
interoperability issues present in each state across first responder 
disciplines and levels of government.

Several state and local agencies that we talked with emphasized that 
they are taking steps to address the need for statewide communications 
planning. State officials also told us that statewide interoperability 
is not enough because incidents first responders face could cross state 
boundaries. Thus, some states are also taking actions to address 
interstate interoperability problems. For example, Illinois, Indiana, 
Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio officials said that their states have 
combined efforts to form the Midwest Public Safety Communications 
Consortium to promote interstate interoperability. According to these 
officials, they also have taken actions to form an interstate committee 
to develop interoperability plans and solicit support from key players, 
such as local public safety agencies.

Statewide Interoperable Communications Committees Offer Potential for 
Coordinated Statewide Planning: 

FCC recognized a strong state interest in planning and administering 
interoperability channels for public safety wireless communications 
when it adopted various technical and operational rules and polices for 
the 700 MHz band. In these rules and policies, FCC concluded that 
administration of the 2.6 MHz of interoperability channels in that band 
(approximately 10 percent) should occur at the state-level in a State 
Interoperability Executive Committee (SIEC). FCC said that states play 
a central role in managing emergency communications and that state-
level organizations are usually in control at large-scale events and 
disasters or multi-agency incidents. FCC also found that states are 
usually in the best position to coordinate with federal government 
emergency agencies. FCC said that SIEC administrative activities could 
include holding licenses, resolving licensing issues, and developing a 
statewide interoperability plan for the 700 MHz band. Other SIEC 
responsibilities could include the creation and oversight of incident 
response protocols and the creation of chains of command for incident 
response and reporting. Available data indicate that 12 to 15 states 
did not create SIECs[Footnote 17] but have relied on Regional Planning 
Committees or similar planning bodies.

Content and Scope of Statewide Interoperability Plans Not Established: 

A comprehensive statewide interoperable plan can provide the guiding 
framework for achieving defined goals for interoperability within a 
state and for regions within and across states (such as Kansas City, Mo 
and Kansas City, Kans.). NCC recommended that all SIECs prepare an 
interoperability plan that is filed with FCC and updated when 
substantive changes are made or at least every three years. NCC also 
recommended to FCC that SIECs, for Homeland Security reasons, should 
administer all interoperability channels in a state, not merely those 
in the 700 MHz band. According to NCC, each state should have a central 
point identified for information on a state's interoperability 

None of the four states we visited had finished preparation and funding 
of their state interoperability plans. Washington and Florida were 
preparing statewide interoperability plans at the time we visited. 
Georgia officials said they have a state interoperability plan but that 
it is not funded. However, one other state we contacted, Missouri, has 
extended SIEC responsibility for interoperability channels beyond the 
700 MHz band.[Footnote 18] The Missouri SIEC has also designated 
standard operational and technical guidelines as conditions for the use 
of these bands. SIEC requires applicants to sign a MOU agreeing to 
these conditions in order to use these channels in the state of 
Missouri. The Missouri SIEC Chairman said the state developed its 
operational and technical guidelines because FCC had not established 
its own guidelines for these interoperability channels in the VHF and 
UHF bands. The chairman said Missouri borders on eight other states and 
expressed concern that these states will develop different guidelines 
that are incompatible with the Missouri guidelines. He said FCC was 
notified of Missouri's actions but has not taken action to date. In 
another example, California intends to prepare a statewide 
interoperability plan. California's SIEC is re-examining California's 
previous stove piped programs of communications interoperability 
(separate systems for law enforcement, fire, etc.) in light of the need 
to maintain tactical channels within disciplines while promoting cross-
discipline interoperability.

Coordination of Federal and State Interoperable Frequencies in 
Statewide Plans: 

FCC designated frequency coordinators[Footnote 19] told FCC that 
planning for interoperability channels should include federal spectrum 
designated for interoperability with state and local governments. We 
found several examples in our field work that support inclusion of 
federal agencies in future state and local planning for interoperable 
communications. For example, a Washington State official told us that 
regional systems within the state do not have links to federal 
communications systems and assets. In another example, according to an 
emergency preparedness official in Seattle, a study of radio 
interoperable communications in a medical center also found that 
federal agencies such as FBI are not integrated into hospital or health 
communications systems, and other federal agencies have no radio 
infrastructure to support and participate in a health emergency such as 
a bio-terrorism event. He told us that he has no idea what the federal 
communications plan is in the event of a disaster; he said he does not 
know how to talk to federal health officials responding to an incident 
or what the federal government needs when they arrive.

The federal government is developing a system that could improve 
interoperable communications on a limited basis between state and 
federal government agencies. The Integrated Wireless Network (IWN) is a 
radio system that is intended to replace the existing radio systems for 
the DOJ, Treasury, and DHS. IWN is an exclusive federal law enforcement 
communications system that is intended to interact and interface with 
state and local systems as needed but will not replace these systems. 
According to DOJ officials, IWN is intended to improve federal to 
state/ local interoperability but will not address interoperability of 
state and local systems.

However, federal interoperability with state and local wireless 
communications systems is hindered because NTIA and FCC control 
different frequencies in the VHF and UHF bands. To enhance 
interoperability, NTIA has identified 40 federal government frequencies 
that can be used by state and local public safety agencies for joint 
law enforcement and incident response purposes.[Footnote 20] FCC, 
however, designated different frequencies for interoperability in the 
VHF band and in the UHF band from spectrum it controls for use by state 
and local public safety agencies.

Federal Grant Structure Does Not Support Statewide Planning: 

Total one-time replacement of the nation's communications systems is 
very unlikely, due to the costs involved. A 1998 study cited the 
replacement value of the existing public safety communication 
infrastructure nationwide at $18.3 billion.[Footnote 21] DHS officials 
said this estimate is much higher when infrastructure and training 
costs are taken into account. Furthermore, DHS recently estimated that 
reaching an accelerated goal of communications interoperability will 
require a major investment of several billion dollars within the next 5 
to 10 years. As a result of these extraordinary costs, federal funding 
is but one of several resources state and local agencies must use in 
order to address these costs. Furthermore, given the high costs, the 
development of an interoperable communications plan is vital to useful, 
non-duplicative spending. However, the federal funding assistance 
programs to state and local governments do not fully support regional 
planning for communications interoperability. Federal grants that 
support interoperability have inconsistent requirements to tie funding 
to interoperable communications plans. In addition, uncoordinated 
federal and state level grant reviews limit the government's ability to 
ensure that federal funds are used to effectively support improved 
regional and statewide communications systems.

Local, state and federal officials agree that regional communications 
plans should be developed to guide decisions on how to use federal 
funds for interoperable communications; however, the current funding 
requirements do not support this planning process. Although recent 
grant requirements have encouraged jurisdictions to take a regional 
approach to planning, current federal first responder grants are 
inconsistent in their requirements to tie funding to interoperable 
communications plans. States and locals are not required to provide an 
interoperable communications plan as a prerequisite to receiving some 
federal grant funds. As a result, there is no assurance that federal 
funds are being used to support a well-developed strategy for improving 
interoperability. For example, the fiscal year 2004 Homeland Security 
Grant (HSG) and Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) grants require 
states or selected jurisdictions to conduct a needs assessment and 
submit a Homeland Security Strategy to ODP.[Footnote 22] However, the 
required strategies are high-level and broad in nature. They do not 
require that project narratives or a detailed communications plan be 
submitted by grantees prior to receiving grant funds.

In another example, fiscal year 2003 funding provided by COPS and FEMA 
for the Interoperable Communications Equipment Grants did not require 
that a communications plan be completed prior to receiving grant funds. 
However, grantees were required to provide documentation that they were 
actively engaged in a planning process and a multi-jurisdictional and 
multidisciplinary project narrative was required. In addition to 
variations in requirements to create communications interoperability 
plans, federal grants also lack consistency in defining what "regional" 
body should conduct planning.

Grant Submissions and Performance Period Time Frames Also Present 
Challenges to Short-and Long-Term Planning: 

State and local officials also said that the short grant application 
deadlines for recent first responder grants limited their ability to 
develop cohesive communications plans or perform a coordinated review 
of local requests. Federal officials acknowledged that the limited 
submission timeframes presents barriers to first responders for 
developing plans prior to receiving funds. For example, several federal 
grant programs--the Homeland Security Grant, UASI grant, COPs and FEMA 
communication equipment grants, Assistance to Firefighters Grant--
allow states only 30 or 60 days from the date of grant announcement to 
submit a grant proposal. These time frames are sometimes driven by 
appropriations language or by the timing of the appropriations 
enactment. Furthermore, many grants have been awarded to state and 
locals for communications interoperability that have 1-or 2-year 
performance periods, and according to state and local officials, do not 
support long-term solutions. For example, Assistance to Fire Fighters 
Grants, COPS/ FEMA's Interoperable Communications Equipment Grants, and 
National Urban Search and Rescue grants all have 1-year performance 
periods.[Footnote 23] UASI, HSG program, and Local Law Enforcement 
Block Grants have 2-year performance periods.

No Coordinated Federal or State Grant Review Exists to Ensure Funds are 
Used to Improve Regional or Statewide Communications Interoperability: 

The federal and state governments lack a coordinated grant review 
process to ensure that funds allocated to local governments are used 
for communication projects that complement each other and add to 
overall statewide and national interoperability. Federal and state 
officials said that each agency reviews its own set of applications and 
projects, without coordination with other agencies. As a result, grants 
could be given to bordering jurisdictions that propose conflicting 
interoperability solutions. In fiscal year 2003, federal officials from 
COPS and FEMA attempted to eliminate awarding funds to conflicting 
communication systems within bordering jurisdictions by coordinating 
their review of interoperable communications equipment grant proposals. 
However, COPS and FEMA are only two of several federal sources of funds 
for communications interoperability.

In an attempt to address this challenge, in 2003 SAFECOM coordinated 
with other agencies to create the document Recommended Federal Grant 
Guidance, Public Safety Communications and Interoperability Grants, 
which lays out standard grant requirements for planning, building, and 
training for interoperable communications systems. The guidance is 
designed to advise federal agencies on who is eligible for the first 
responder interoperable communications grants, the purposes for which 
grant funds can be used, and eligibility specifications for 
applicants.[Footnote 24] The guidance recommends standard minimum 
requirements, such as requirements to "…define the objectives of what 
the applicant is ultimately trying to accomplish and how the proposed 
project would fit into an overall effort to increase interoperability, 
as well as identify potential partnerships for agreements." 
Additionally, the guidance recommends, but does not require, that 
applicants establish a governance group consisting of local, tribal, 
state, and federal entities from relevant public safety disciplines and 
purchase interoperable equipment that is compliant with phase one of 
Project-25 standards.

The House Committee on Appropriations report for the DHS FY 2004 
appropriation states that the Committee is aware of numerous federal 
programs addressing communications interoperability through planning, 
building, upgrading, and maintaining public safety communication 
systems, among other purposes. The Committee directed that all DHS 
grant programs issuing grants for the above purposes incorporate the 
SAFECOM guidance and coordinate with the SAFECOM program when awarding 
funding. To better coordinate the government's efforts, the Committee 
also encouraged all other federal programs issuing grants for the above 
purposes to use the guidelines outlined by SAFECOM in their grant 
programs. However, SAFECOM officials said that they have no enforcement 
authority to require other agencies to use this guidance in their 
funding decisions or to require agencies to provide grant program 
information to them for use in their database.


A fundamental barrier to successfully addressing interoperable 
communications problems for public safety has been the lack of 
effective, collaborative, interdisciplinary, and intergovernmental 
planning. Jurisdictional boundaries and unique public safety agency 
missions have often fostered barriers that hinder cooperation and 
collaboration. No one first responder agency, jurisdiction, or level of 
government can "fix" the nation's interoperability problems, which vary 
across the nation and often cross first responder agency and 
jurisdictional boundaries. Changes in spectrum available to federal, 
state and local public safety agencies--primarily a federal 
responsibility conducted through the FCC and NTIA--changes in 
technology, and the evolving missions and responsibilities of public 
safety agencies in an age of terrorism all highlight the ever-changing 
environment in which interoperable communications needs and solutions 
must be addressed. Interdisciplinary, intergovernmental, and multi-
jurisdictional partnership and collaboration are essential for 
effectively addressing interoperability shortcomings.


We are making recommendations to DHS and OMB to improve the assessment 
and coordination of interoperable communications efforts. We recommend 
that the Secretary of DHS: 

* in coordination with the FCC and National Telecommunications and 
Information Administration, continue to develop a nationwide database 
of public safety frequency channels and a standard nationwide 
nomenclature for these channels, with clear target dates for completing 
both efforts;

* establish requirements for interoperable communications and assist 
states in assessing interoperability in their states against those 

* through DHS grant guidance encourage states to establish a single, 
statewide body to assess interoperability and develop a comprehensive 
statewide interoperability plan for federal, state, and local 
communications systems in all frequency bands; and: 

* at the appropriate time, require through DHS grant guidance that 
federal grant funding for communications equipment shall be approved 
only upon certification by the statewide body responsible for 
interoperable communications that grant applications for equipment 
purchases conform with statewide interoperability plans.

We also recommend that the Director of OMB, in conjunction with DHS, 
review the interoperability mission and functions now assigned to 
SAFECOM and establish those functions as a long-term program with 
adequate authority and funding.

In commenting on a draft of this report, the Department of Homeland 
Security discusses actions the department is taking that are generally 
consistent with the intent of our recommendations but do not directly 
address specific steps detailed in our recommendations with respect to 
establishment of statewide bodies responsible for interoperable 
communications within the state, the development of comprehensive 
statewide interoperability plans and tying federal funds for 
communications equipment directly to those statewide interoperable 
plans. OMB did not provide written comments on the draft report.

This concludes my prepared statement, Mr. Chairman, and I would be 
pleased to answer any questions you or other members of the 
Subcommittee my have at this time.


[1] Our work addressed issues of public safety wireless communications 
interoperability--communications that use radio frequency waves, such 
as cellular telephones and other types of wireless radios--instead of 
telephone wires for transmitting voice and data. We did not address 
interoperability problems that may be found in other homeland security 
functions, such as fire equipment, chem-bio equipment, and information 

[2] U.S. General Accounting Office, Homeland Security: Challenges in 
Achieving Interoperable Communications for First Responders, GAO 
04-231T (Washington, D.C.: November 6, 2003).

[3] U.S. General Accounting Office, Homeland Security: Federal 
Leadership and Intergovernmental Cooperation Required to Achieve First 
Responder Interoperable Communications, GAO-04-740 (Washington, D.C.: 
July 2004).

[4] The Wireless Public Safety Interoperable Communications Program 
(SAFECOM) was established in 2001 by the Office of Management and 
Budget (OMB) to focus on communications interoperability issues.

[5] Spectrum bands are the useable radio frequencies in the 
electromagnetic distribution. Specific frequencies have been allocated 
to the public safety community.

[6] The radiofrequency spectrum is the medium that enables wireless 
communications of all kinds. Although the radio spectrum spans the 
range from 3 kilohertz to 300 gigahertz, 90 percent of its use is 
concentrated in the 1 percent of frequencies that lie below 3.1 
gigahertz, because these frequencies have properties that make this 
portion of the spectrum well suited for many important wireless 
technologies. Radio waves are a form of electromagnetic radiation that 
propagate in space as the result of particle oscillations. The number 
of oscillations per second is called "frequency," which is measured in 
units of hertz. The term "kilohertz" refers to thousands of hertz and 
"gigahertz" to billions of hertz. 

[7] The Advanced Generation of Interoperability for Law Enforcement 
(AGILE) is a key DOJ program promoting wireless interoperability for 
first responders.

[8] The Department of Justice and the Department of the Treasury formed 
PSWN to promote effective public safety communications and to foster 
interoperability among local, state, federal, and tribal communications 
systems. PSWN was incorporated into DHS as part of the SAFECOM project 
in 2003.

[9] An enterprise architecture can be viewed as a link between an 
organization's strategic plan and the program and supporting systems 
implementation investments it intends to pursue to systematically 
achieve its strategic goals and outcomes. As such the architecture is 
basically a blueprint, defined largely by interrelated models, that 
describes (in both business and technology terms) an entity's "as is" 
or current environment, its "to be" future environment, and its 
investment plan for transitioning from the current to the future 
environment. See U.S. General Accounting Office, Information 
Technology: The Federal Enterprise Architecture and Agencies Enterprise 
Architectures Are Still Maturing, GAO-04-798T (Washington, D.C.: May 
19, 2004).

[10] In 1987, the FCC developed a National Plan for Public Safety Radio 
Services that set national guidelines for use of the 800 MHz spectrum 
while allowing regional public safety planning committees to develop 
regional plans tailored to their areas own particular communications 
needs. A large portion of the 700 MHz public safety spectrum, 
approximately 53 percent (12.5 MHz), is designated for general use by 
local, regional, and state users. A regional planning process was 
adopted to govern management of this public safety spectrum. It is a 
process similar to that used in the 821-824 MHz and 866-869 MHz bands. 
Regional Planning Committees (RPCs) are allowed maximum flexibility to 
meet state and local needs, encourage innovative use of the spectrum, 
and accommodate new and as yet unanticipated developments in technology 
equipment. They are responsible for creating and managing regional 

[11] U.S. General Accounting Office, Project SAFECOM: Key Cross-Agency 
Emergency Communications Effort Requires Stronger Collaboration, 
GAO-04-494 (Washington, D.C.: April 16, 2004).

[12] Congress authorized COPS within DOJ to administer the 
Interoperable Communications Technology Program in 2003. The program 
awarded 14 grants totaling more than $66 million to first responders 
for interoperable communications and provides technical assistance to 

[13] U.S. General Accounting Office, Telecommunications: Better 
Coordination and Enhanced Accountability Needed to Improve Spectrum 
Management, GAO-02-906 (Washington, D.C.: Sept., 2002).

[14] U.S. General Accounting Office, Telecommunications: Comprehensive 
Review Of U.S. Spectrum Management With Broad Stakeholder Involvement 
Is Needed, GAO-03-277 (Washington,D.C.: Jan., 2003).

[15] FICC is an informal council consisting of federal agencies, whose 
mission is to help local, tribal, state, and federal public safety 
agencies improve public safety response through more effective and 
efficient interoperable wireless communications by reducing 
duplication in programs and activities, identifying and promoting best 
practices and coordinating federal grants, technical assistance, 
training, and standards. Proposed FICC members are federal agencies 
within DOJ, DHS, Defense, Agriculture, Health and Human Services, and 

[16] See The Role of The States in Public Safety Wireless 
Interoperability, PSWN (2002).

[17] FCC data show 38 states and the District of Columbia with SIECs or 
similar bodies and 12 states with Regional Planning Committees (RPC) 
assuming the SIEC role. However, PSWN data show 7 states with SIECs, 13 
states with SIEC like committees, 15 states with statewide safety 
communication committees that have responsibilities broader than SIECs, 
and 15 states where RPCs have assumed SIEC responsibilities.

[18] Missouri SIEC responsibility includes FCC's designated 
interoperability channels (except for certain legacy mutual aid 
channels) in the VHF and UHF bands. 

[19] FCC has certified specific associations to perform the 
coordination process used to choose appropriate frequencies for public 
safety mobile radio systems. This coordination is essential to ensure 
that the numerous systems across the country have clear and 
interference free operation on these critical radio systems. 

[20] NTIA states that these frequencies may not be used to meet day-to-
day communications needs of non-federal public safety agencies. 

[21] Land Mobile Radio Replacement Cost Study, PSWN (June 1998).

[22] In fiscal year 2004, this grant program's name changed from State 
Homeland Security Grant to Homeland Security Grant Program. The new 
program includes three different grant programs.

[23] In their technical comments on a draft of this report, COPS 
officials said the performance period for the FY 2003 Interoperable 
Communications Technology Equipment and the COPS Interoperable 
Communications Technology Program have a one year time period but that 
no-cost extensions of time were available to grantees on a case-by-case 
basis to accommodate unavoidable delays.

[24] DHS officials said that, in addition to outlining the eligibility 
for grant dollars and the purposes for which federal dollars can be 
used, the SAFECOM grant guidance provides consensus guidelines for 
implementing a wireless communications system. DHS said this guidance 
is useful in directing all agencies towards interoperability goals, 
even if they are not specifically applying for federal funding.

GAO's Mission: 

The General Accounting Office, the audit, evaluation and investigative 
arm of Congress, exists to support Congress in meeting its 
constitutional responsibilities and to help improve the performance and 
accountability of the federal government for the American people. GAO 
examines the use of public funds; evaluates federal programs and 
policies; and provides analyses, recommendations, and other assistance 
to help Congress make informed oversight, policy, and funding 
decisions. GAO's commitment to good government is reflected in its core 
values of accountability, integrity, and reliability.

Obtaining Copies of GAO Reports and Testimony: 

The fastest and easiest way to obtain copies of GAO documents at no 
cost is through the Internet. GAO's Web site ( contains 
abstracts and full-text files of current reports and testimony and an 
expanding archive of older products. The Web site features a search 
engine to help you locate documents using key words and phrases. You 
can print these documents in their entirety, including charts and other 

Each day, GAO issues a list of newly released reports, testimony, and 
correspondence. GAO posts this list, known as "Today's Reports," on its 
Web site daily. The list contains links to the full-text document 
files. To have GAO e-mail this list to you every afternoon, go to and select "Subscribe to e-mail alerts" under the "Order 
GAO Products" heading.

Order by Mail or Phone: 

The first copy of each printed report is free. Additional copies are $2 
each. A check or money order should be made out to the Superintendent 
of Documents. GAO also accepts VISA and Mastercard. Orders for 100 or 
more copies mailed to a single address are discounted 25 percent. 
Orders should be sent to: 

U.S. General Accounting Office 
441 G Street NW, Room LM 
Washington, D.C. 20548: 

To order by Phone: 

Voice: (202) 512-6000 

TDD: (202) 512-2537 

Fax: (202) 512-6061: 

To Report Fraud, Waste, and Abuse in Federal Programs: 


Web site: 

Automated answering system: (800) 424-5454 or (202) 512-7470: 

Public Affairs: 

Jeff Nelligan, Managing Director, 
(202) 512-4800 

U.S. General Accounting Office, 
441 G Street NW, Room 7149 
Washington, D.C. 20548: