Norm Ornstein: The Homeland Security Embarrassment - Huffington Post via Yahoo! News
When the third plane hit the Pentagon on 9/11, emergency workers, fire, police and others streamed to the site to help, coming from several adjoining counties in Virginia and Maryland. They soon discovered a huge impediment to their rescue and recovery work-- they could not communicate with one another because their radios operated on different frequencies-- if they tried cell phones, they found the system basically frozen through overload in a panicked Capital region. So after 9/11, one of the high priority items on the agenda was making emergency communications systems interoperable across the country. This had been a longstanding problem, caused in part because of the failure of the federal government to allocate appropriate space on the electromagnetic spectrum-- the airwaves, that is-- for these services. We are two weeks from the fourth anniversary of 9/11. And we are a few days past the discovery by emergency workers from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, along with the noble volunteers coming down to the disaster sites from a lot of places around the country, that they could not communicate with each other because their radios were not interoperable.
Four years and multiple national disasters, each time rediscovering the unpleasant reality that communications still are not interoperable. This is not for lack of understanding-- numerous commissions (including one I served on first responders by the Council on Foreign Relations) pointed out this problem and its importance. Congress, the White House and the Department of Homeland Security have let it slip. Actions, and inactions, have consequences. And they should have consequences for those responsible.