Federal watchdogs recently finished their review of the V.I.’s initial plan to implement FirstNet, a nationwide public safety wireless broadband network dedicated for first responders. The program is funded by a half-million dollar grant from FirstNet’s State and Local Implementation Grant Program (SLIGP).
Bureau of Information Technology Director Reuben Molloy said, "We gave the federal team an overview of our vision and approach to the FirstNet mission, and they reviewed our financial records, processes and controls."
The federal reviewers were from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The three representatives visited St. Croix and St. Thomas to review the programs’s grant administration and financial management.
"In addition, they also interviewed VIPD MIS Director Kareem Christian, VITEMA Director Elton Lewis and viNGN President and CEO Larry Kupfer, some our key partners in this grant," said Molloy. "I believe they came away satisfied and now we are just awaiting their official report.”
In August 2013, the territory was awarded the SLIGP grant of $515,628.
The FirstNet program will improve safety and security in the territory, according to Gov. John deJongh Jr.
"Our participation in the FirstNet program is consistent with my approach that we participate in all efforts that will improve safety and security in the territory,” deJongh said, “but also that we have a first-rate technology platform that is interoperable across all our first responders, law enforcement and emergency preparedness personnel.
“It is imperative that we be prepared, and what BIT is undertaking as the lead agency is putting us on even firmer footing."
The three-year grant funds the territory’s efforts to provide FirstNet with data for a local business plan. The business plan will then be presented to the governor for a decision to opt-in or opt-out.
Opting-in means that the federal government would have full responsibility for implementing the public safety broadband network. Opting-out means that the territory would still be required to participate in the network, but would take full responsibility for implementing the network with some financial assistance from the federal government.