Author: Wes Rogers, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and Charlie Sasser, SAFECOM Member, National Association of State Technology Directors
SAFECOM, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s (CISA) premier public safety communications advisory council, is made-up of public safety stakeholders with a diverse set of experiences and backgrounds. We took the opportunity to speak with Charlie Sasser, a representative with the National Association of State Technology Directors (NASTD) and one of SAFECOM’s longest serving members, to briefly talk about NASTD and his involvement in SAFECOM activities.
NASTD is a member-driven organization whose purpose is to advance and promote the effective use of information technology (IT) and services to improve the operation of state government. NASTD represents IT professionals from the 50 states and the private sector. These members also play a strategic role in planning and shaping state government technology infrastructures and policies. Corporate members provide information technology, services, and equipment to state government.
CISA (C): NASTD isn’t necessarily the first group that comes to mind when someone thinks of public safety communications. How is NASTD staying involved in public safety communications and what are some major wins/contributions they have made in the public safety space?
Charlie Sasser (CS): At the time NASTD asked me to represent the organization as a member of SAFECOM, our acronym stood for National Association of State Telecommunications Directors. Our membership was primarily state managers of land mobile radio systems and state telephone systems. State information technology (IT) organizations were not represented. Over time as the state IT function became more prominent, the focus of our membership transitioned from radios and telephone systems to IT management. This change prompted us to change our charter and name to the National Association of State Technology Directors. As my background included Telecommunications and IT, I continued my NASTD membership and SAFECOM membership. I continue to share SAFECOM products and information to NASTD membership, requesting their support in sharing the communications with their public safety agency contacts.
C: Since you are extremely involved in many of SAFECOM’s committees and working groups, you have a unique insight into SAFECOM operations. What do you think is SAFECOM’s greatest impact area? What resources does SAFECOM need to bolster?
CS: SAFECOM membership was instrumental in providing input to the user requirements documentation used for the procurement of FirstNet Authority. Further, the numerous publications created to support public safety communications managers are invaluable. SAFECOM needs to continue to monitor the environment via direct user input to determine their needs as the public safety operating environment continues to evolve.
C: You have been a SAFECOM member since 2002. What is your advice to new members on how to get more involved? Or for existing members to stay engaged?
CS: Identify a committee supporting an area of interest that is important to you. Use the forum to provide your input and expand your knowledge from the experience of other members.
C: You have been involved in telecommunications longer than some SAFECOM members have been alive; how is your vast and varied experience helping support SAFECOM initiatives?
CS: SAFECOM leadership would be a better judge of any value I bring to the organization. However, I have been blessed with varied opportunities in the IT and communications work environment since 1964. I strive to share the experience gained through my successes and failures, hoping younger members will leverage my input to make better business decisions.