Safecom: Addressing Public Safety Wireless Needs

This month’s column features an exclusive interview I conducted with Dr. David G. Boyd, who is deputy director (operations) for the Office of Research and Development and director of the Safecom Program Office in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security...


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This month’s column features an exclusive interview I conducted with Dr. David G. Boyd, who is deputy director (operations) for the Office of Research and Development and director of the Safecom Program Office in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Safecom was established in 2002 to address the wireless communication needs of public safety organizations.

Boyd joined DHS just as it was being set up in March 2003. As deputy director (operations) for the Office of Research and Development, he is responsible for the operations of the office and for the management or oversight of the operations of all the Homeland Security Laboratories. As director of Safecom, he is responsible for the national effort to achieve interoperability among the communications systems of the nation’s first responders at local, state and federal levels.

Boyd came to Homeland Security from the U.S. Department of Justice, where he had served since 1992 as director of science and technology for the National Institute of Justice. In 1997, he was also appointed deputy director of the institute. He oversaw the operations of the largest law enforcement and corrections technology development activity in the United States. He also served on the White House National Science and Technology Council and the National Security Council Committee on Safety and Security of Public Facilities, and was executive chair of the Justice Department’s Technology Policy Council.

Boyd retired from the U.S. Army after more than 20 years to accept that appointment. He commanded combat, combat support and training units in the United States and overseas and has served on military staffs from battalion level to the Pentagon. He has held assignments in the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where he was responsible for the design and supervision of the development and application of automated models in support of the Chairman. His more than three dozen military awards include the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

He holds a career appointment in the Senior Executive Service, and is a graduate of the University of Illinois Champaign, Golden Gate University, the University of Illinois-Chicago and Walden University. He holds graduate degrees in operations research and public policy analysis and a doctorate in decision sciences, and is an adjunct professor of operations research and information technology at Capella University.

A quote from Secretary Tom Ridge at last year’s Congressional Fire Services Dinner: “Helping first responders stay safe and effective and alive is our department’s goal. Whether by analyzing the vulnerabilities of our critical infrastructure, enhancing hospitals capacity to treat victims of bioterrorism, informing communities through our threat advisory system, or encouraging the next generation of homeland security products and technology. One of those is Project Safecom. This is our effort to ensure wireless interoperability so firefighters and other emergency responders can communicate with one another in any crisis.”

Firehouse: What is Safecom’s definition of “communications interoperability”?
Boyd: Communications interoperability is the ability of public safety practitioners to talk across disciplines and jurisdictions via radio communications systems, exchanging voice and/or data with one another on demand, in real time, when needed and when authorized.

Firehouse: Can you tell the fire service about Safecom, its mission and how firefighters can benefit from Safecom’s efforts?
Boyd: Safecom’s mission is to serve as the umbrella program within the federal government to help local, tribal, state and federal public safety agencies improve response through more effective and efficient interoperable wireless communications.

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