Rear Admiral (ret.) James Arden ("Jamie") Barnett Jr. is the chief of the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau. He oversees FCC activities pertaining to public safety, homeland security, emergency management and disaster preparedness, and represents...
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Rear Admiral (ret.) James Arden ("Jamie") Barnett Jr. is the chief of the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau. He oversees FCC activities pertaining to public safety, homeland security, emergency management and disaster preparedness, and represents the Commission on these issues before federal, state and industry organizations. Barnett served 32 years in the U.S. Navy and Navy Reserve, retiring in 2008. His last active-duty assignments were deputy commander, Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, and director, Naval Education and Training in the Pentagon. Before coming to the FCC, Barnett was a Senior Research Fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, a think tank focusing on science and technology issues of importance to the nation, including cyber conflict and cyber security. From 1984 to 2001, he was a senior partner at Mitchell, McNutt and Sams, PA in Tupelo, MS, representing municipalities, counties, law enforcement agencies, schools and local government officials.
FIREHOUSE: You have had a distinguished career that includes military service. Can you tell us what you see as similarities in your new leadership role with the FCC, and what you foresee as some of the biggest challenges?
BARNETT: There are similarities between working with armed forces and working with the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau. I believe the greatest one is the 'sense of mission' in the people here at the FCC, just like the men and women of the uniformed services. I really feel that they are supporting America's first responders and we need to make sure that we get it right in the area of public safety. It gives a great sense of purpose and we want to make sure that we are advancing policies and initiatives for firefighters, police officers and emergency medical technicians by giving them the best support possible within the Commission.
FIREHOUSE: What differences are there between roles?
BARNETT: The Department of Defense seems to have a good deal more money than the FCC. We must find a way to make that up through a strong sense of dedication to the public we serve because we are a regulatory body, not an executive agency with grant-funding authority. Therefore, we have to work more closely with our public safety groups to make sure we understand what their needs are; to make sure we are covering all the bases and advancing the policies that work for them. We have to do a little more footwork in this area as a result. When I first arrived at the FCC, Chairman (Julius) Genachowski directed our bureau to make sure that we reached out and strengthened relationships with FEMA, DHS, NTIA, DOJ, HHS and other federal agencies. This responsibility fills up more of my calendar than I might have imagined coming into the job and, yet, we have begun to see real benefits and rewards from those renewed partnerships. We are at our best when we are working closely with our federal partners.
FIREHOUSE: What interested you in the role of the FCC's Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau chief?
BARNETT: Really, it was the importance of the FCC's work in this area. My goal is to make sure that the Commission is doing all it can to ensure that our nation's first responders have the tools they need to do their potentially life-saving jobs day in and day out, while protecting themselves from harm's way.
FIREHOUSE: What are the major FCC initiatives that are important to public safety?
BARNETT: Without a doubt, the one issue that is front and center is the national public safety mobile broadband network, which will be an important part of the FCC's overall National Broadband Plan. As most of your readers may know, the President and Congress directed the FCC to deliver a national broadband plan to them by Feb. 17, 2010, which actually did not provide the Commission much time because it covers so many different aspects. We do, however, recognize the importance of this responsibility and expect to meet the deadline.