Obama grants DHS power to takeover commercial, private communications in emergency

The Daily Caller

Should disaster strike the U.S., the secretary of Homeland Security will be  in charge of re-establishing and prioritizing communications to ensure the  continuation of the federal government, according to a new executive order from  President Barack  Obama.

The executive order, signed on Friday, once again expands the  powers of the Department of Homeland Security — this time to include the  handling of communications during a national security event or natural disaster.  The order also allows for DHS to re-establish communications “through the use of  commercial, government, and privately owned communications resources, when  appropriate.”

The secretary of homeland security, in coordination with the secretary of  defense, would also “serve as the federal lead for the prioritized restoration  of communications infrastructure and coordinate the prioritization and  restoration of communications, including resolution of any conflicts in or among  priorities.”

In addition to further empowering DHS’ role in the federal government, the  order also establishes several new committees and outlines the roles of various  major executive branch agencies and offices, including the White House Office of  Science and Technology Policy, the Department of State, the Department of  Commerce, the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense, DHS, the Office  of the Director of National Intelligence, General Services Administration and  the Federal Communications Commission.

The federal government already has its own emergency communications network — the National Communications System (NCS). First established by executive order  during the Reagan administration, the NCS allows members of the federal  government to communicate during emergencies by piggy backing off of private  networks such as AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and various regional carriers.  In 2003, the executive order that established NCS was extended to include cell  phones.

The recent executive order also came days before public safety agencies  across the country were to begin interoperability testing of equipment for the new national  public safety LTE network (a high-speed mobile network), which will allow  public safety officials to communicate over a national modern broadband network  in the event of a crisis. The network will allow public safety officials to  send and receive high-quality mobile data, such as video.

A knock-down, drag-out battle ensued for several years over the  reallocation of prized spectrum for the development of the network as part of a  result of the 9/11 Commission. A majority of the funding for the $7 billion  network was established by Congress in February, with the network rollout  estimated to begin next year.

Read more:  http://dailycaller.com/2012/07/11/homeland-security-gains-more-power-through-new-obama-executive-order/#ixzz20M4O5JuZ

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