FCC rolls out new homeland security bureau

The Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously on March 17 to establish a new Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau.

The new unit will oversee issues such as disaster management, spectrum licensing for public safety agencies, 911 call centers, and alert and warning communications, the FCC said in a news release. Furthermore, the unit will address communications infrastructure protection and interoperability for public safety.

Congress must be notified of the changes before they become effective, and the commission must secure union approval for issues affecting its workforce.

The new bureau will handle functions that had been spread among seven different bureaus, including enhanced 911 requirements, priority emergency communications, continuity of government operations planning, network reliability, and resiliency and network security.

It will have policy, public communications and operations, and systems analysis divisions. The operations unit will run the FCC's Communications Center and High Frequency Direction Finding Capability facilities.

"Today the commission takes the significant step of consolidating its public safety, national security and disaster management policymaking, planning, and outreach activities into a single bureau," FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin said in a statement. "This bureau will provide a single central hub for the development of policies and rules to promote reliable communications for public safety, national security, and disaster management."

Hospitals and medical facilities will be able to call on the FCC's new bureau to seek assistance in achieving connection to a nationwide public safety emergency communications system, Commissioner Michael J. Copps said in a statement.

"The wireless industry has always been committed to providing reliable communication, particularly in times of crisis, and looks forward to working closely with the Commission's new bureau," Steve Largent, chief executive of the Wireless Association trade group, said in a news release about bureau's creation.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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