ECD and NCSWIC Partner to Develop a MOU to Improve Interoperability

The Emergency Communications Division (ECD), in cooperation with several federal departments and agencies, developed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that will allow State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial public safety agencies to use federal Law Enforcement and Incident Response (LE/IR) channels to improve emergency communications interoperability. The MOU is from the recent changes in the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Manual of Regulations and Procedures for Federal Radio Frequency Management (NTIA Manual section 4.3.16) governing how federal LE/IR channels can be used.

The New Rules

The new NTIA rules will not only increase the number of channels that can be used during emergencies and for coordination of law enforcement activities with federal agencies, they now eliminate the need for every State and local public safety agency to execute an agreement with every federal agency they work with. The rules specifically state “Non-federal use will be coordinated with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) through the Statewide Interoperability Coordinator (SWIC) or a state appointed official. The FCC will grant authority to program and use the Federal Interoperability Channels through a signed agreement between the SWIC or state appointed official and a federal user with a valid GMF assignment.”

The MOU and the NCSWIC Partnership

The MOU was developed by a Department of Homeland Security focus group, the Department of the Interior, and the Department of Justice. To streamline the Federal/State coordination process, the Department of the Interior National Radio and Spectrum Program Office agreed to serve as the Federal signatory for all MOUs. The MOU greatly simplifies the process of coordinating the use of these channels.  

The National Council of Statewide Interoperability Coordinators (NSWIC) has agreed to help facilitate the execution of the MOU in all the States and Territories by coordinating the process among its membership. At the recent Joint SAFECOM -NCSWIC meeting in Norman, Oklahoma, the first MOU was signed by Chris Lewis of the Department of the Interior (on behalf of the Federal Government) and Bob Symons, the State of Wyoming SWIC. This signing is unique as it marks the first MOU of its kind based on the new NTIA rules. Ron Hewitt, OEC Director, and members of SAFECOM and NCSWIC witnessed this landmark event.

For more information on the MOU and its impact on interoperability, please contact Jim Downes at James.Downes@CISA.DHS.GOV.