What Is $300 Million Worth? The Evolution of NIST’s Public Safety Research

By Dereck Orr

I came to the Public Safety Communications Research Program (PSCR) as a program manager in 2002, after investigations into the emergency response to the events of 9/11 shed light on the tragic failure of first responder communications systems. Back then, our fairly small program, housed at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), was able to achieve significant impact. For this I credit our expertise and Congress’ prioritization of fixing issues with land mobile radio (LMR) systems, specifically in the ability for the two-way radio systems to communicate with one another. 

Our contribution to the conceptual design of a nationwide public safety broadband network, now known as FirstNet, led us to receive $300 million in funding from the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012. This funding directed NIST to perform critical public safety communications research and development during a 10-year period.



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