This is the latest in a blog series highlighting the associations of the First Responder Network Authority’s (FirstNet Authority) Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC). PSAC members represent associations and agencies from all public safety disciplines, as well as state, territorial, tribal, and local governments. Together, they provide guidance and recommendations to the FirstNet Authority in carrying out its duties and responsibilities. The PSAC’s input is invaluable to the development of FirstNet, the nationwide broadband network dedicated to public safety.
Founded more than 50 years ago, Nlets – the International Justice and Public Safety Network is an international, not-for-profit corporation owned and managed by the 50 states and 5 U.S. territories. Nlets serves the law enforcement community through a standardized and integrated interstate system and network that enables state, local, and federal agencies with a justice component to exchange law enforcement, criminal justice, and public safety-related information.
Through Nlets, law enforcement agencies from around the country and Canada can exchange and access wide-ranging information—from driver’s licenses, vehicle registrations, warrant information, all points bulletins, homeland security information, and correctional images to wildlife licensing records, amber and blue alerts, and Interpol databases. In addition to developing innovative information sharing technologies, Nlets leads grant work to support the development of law enforcement-focused programs and funds many information exchange programs through its Brodie Assistance Fund.
Nlets membership is comprised of state representatives from 54 lead law enforcement agencies that solely fund and govern the network’s operations. To help ensure that qualified organizations appropriately use the network, Nlets has developed strong partnerships with private and public organizations to secure data exchange for criminal justice information sharing.
Frank Minice is the Executive Director-CEO of Nlets and represents the organization on the FirstNet Authority’s PSAC; he also serves on the PSAC Executive Committee. As the PSAC representative for Nlets, Minice understands the critical role broadband communications plays to ensure the secure and reliable delivery of life-saving data to our nation’s law enforcement officials and other first responders. To help improve situational awareness and response for law enforcement, Nlets advocated on behalf of FirstNet to provide the criminal justice community with the ability to share and access critical information over a secure and reliable platform.
Having the FirstNet Authority present at the 2022 Nlets Annual Business Meeting brought together the full organization to hear more about the benefit the FirstNet Authority brings to Nlets via the PSAC and the organization’s recent adoption of the FirstNet network.
“Nlets recently deployed FirstNet equipment to every state and federal system control agency to act as a backup to the Nlets private terrestrial network,” explained Minice. “Having this dedicated bandwidth for law enforcement and public safety has allowed us to continue to provide 99.997% network uptime to the Nlets users, providing critical data and assisting in saving lives and protecting property.”
Securing and protecting sensitive data for law enforcement
The information accessed and compiled by our nation’s first responders must be secure from unauthorized use, adhere to security best practices, and comply with laws and regulations. The FirstNet network, by design, ensures critical and sensitive information is protected when first responders communicate over the network. FirstNet was constructed with a dedicated and physically separate core, which keeps responders’ data separate from commercial users. FirstNet also follows data security practices that exceed standard commercial network security measures, further protecting data on the network.
The PSAC formed the Identity, Credentialing, and Access Management (ICAM) Strike Team in 2020 to support FirstNet in facilitating the secure and reliable exchange of data and information. As Chair of the ICAM Strike Team, Minice led efforts to better understand the use of public safety applications by first responders. After analyzing feedback from several users and experts on the topic, the Strike Team provided recommendations to the FirstNet Authority on how to continuously improve secure information exchange on FirstNet. They discussed the importance of first responders being granted access to easy-to-use security measures and secure access to reliable data and information over FirstNet, ensuring the right data gets to the right people at the right time.
“As systems and security policies evolve, the success of FirstNet will depend on the users being able to access core applications to fulfill their mission,” explained Minice. “Identity management will need to allow the information resource owners to make access control decisions. The FirstNet Authority PSAC is taking a proactive approach to this issue by joining the discussions and providing expertise from the start.”
The PSAC will continue to work with Nlets and other public safety associations on measures to protect public safety data and information sharing. As FirstNet continues to mature and move toward more advanced capabilities, the PSAC will continuously update and refine its work and provide expertise to help ensure the ongoing security of FirstNet.
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