National Communications System Joins Homeland Security Department
By Steve Barrett
National Guard Bureau
ARLINGTON, Va., Mar. 10, 2003 After a nearly 40-year relationship with the Department of Defense, the National Communications System became part of the Department of Homeland Security March 5 during ceremonies at the Defense Information System Agency's Skyline 7 auditorium here.
The NCS is a consortium of 23 federal member departments and agencies responsible for ensuring the availability of national security and emergency preparedness communications. It was one many federal agencies that officially became part of the new department on March 1.
Lt. Gen. Harry D. Raduege Jr., NCS manager since June 2000, passed the NCS colors and responsibilities to Army Maj. Gen. Bruce M. Lawlor, chief of staff for the Department of Homeland Security, who represented Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge. Raduege remains the Defense Information Systems Agency director.
Pending nomination by the president and confirmation by the Senate, the Homeland Security Department's Undersecretary for information assurance and infrastructure protection will become the NCS manager.
"The NCS has accomplished each new mission it received with unmatched excellence and great ability," Raduege said in his ceremonial remarks. "It will be no different as they take on their new mission with the Department of Homeland Security. The NCS will continue to demonstrate its great ability as its professional team members identify and assess threats to our homeland, map those threats against vulnerabilities, issue warnings, and provide the basis from which to organize protective measures."
Lawlor, in accepting the agency colors, said the newest federal department is proud NCS is part of the homeland defense effort. "You are an important and valued member of a new team," he said. "We appreciate your experience, understand your traditions and acknowledge your incredible achievements over the past 40 years."
When Office of Homeland Security began planning for the creation of the department, Lawlor said, officials thought about linking intelligence and critical infrastructure into a new organization. He said the department wanted an organization that could look at intelligence threats, assess vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure, and propose and implement solutions. The department also wanted an organization that could inspire confidence in the private sector to collect and protect the information needed to accomplish this kind of mission.
"We found that what we were thinking about wasn't so new at all -- that the NCS had been doing it for some time and doing it magnificently," he said. "We sought out the NCS as a model for how we might take what you've done and implement across all 14 sectors of critical infrastructure that exists across the country. We also remembered what happened after 9-11, and we remembered your magnificent efforts of putting back into operation the communications systems that serve as the engine that drives this country."
The general also cited the NCS accomplishments with the President's National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee, a model for industry-government partnership in establishing national security and emergency preparedness communications. "With the NSTAC, you've created an unmatched standard of integrity that generates trust between the public and private sectors to look at critical infrastructures for the good of the country," Lawlor said.
"We look forward to your experiences and your commitment, your sense of mission and your professionalism, and we look forward to helping you help us," he said.
In his last action prior to the transfer, Raduege presented the NCS with a Joint Meritorious Unit Award and then attached the award streamer to the agency's colors.
The award cited the NCS and DISA for "exceptionally meritorious achievement" from Sept. 11, 2001, to Dec. 31, 2001, where the NCS "consistently displayed super leadership skills, managerial talent, technical expertise, directly contributing to the overwhelming success of operational forces during the conduct of operations to assure homeland security, overthrow the Taliban regime and liberate Afghanistan as part of the war on terrorism."
Although the transfer is complete, the NCS will remain at its current site, co- located with the DISA headquarters in Arlington, until further notice.
NCS was established in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy to assure national telecommunications survivability following the Cuban Missile Crisis. Its activities currently include the Government Emergency Telecommunications System and Telecommunications Service Priority Program, two programs successfully used by national security and emergency preparedness officials during the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington.
A recent NCS initiative, and a result of the Sept. 11 attacks, is the deployment of a nationwide Wireless Priority Service, now available in 15 geographic areas. The agency plans to expand this service across the country by the end of the year.
The NCS also runs the National Coordinating Center for Telecommunications and its Telecommunications-Information Sharing and Analysis Center, where representatives of government and the telecommunications industry coordinate emergency telecommunications response efforts following national crises, including natural disasters and terrorist events.
For more information on the National Communications System, visit its Web Site at www.ncs.gov.
(Steve Barrett handles public affairs for the National Communications System, Arlington, Va.)