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Schumer Unveils New "Us Homeland Security Signal Corps" So New York Cops, Firefighters & Emts Can Communicate At Terror Sites

9/11 Commission hearings in NYC this week reiterated Feds aren't doing nearly enough to help NYPD, FDNY, EMTs and others with radio interoperability

Schumer proposes specialized regiment of police, firefighters, EMTs whose only job is to guarantee that first responders can communicate with one another, headquarters and the public at all times

New US Homeland Security Signal C

Standing on a Manhattan block where FDNY Ladder and Engine Companies share a common wall with an NYPD precinct, US Senator Charles E. Schumer today unveiled a new proposal to create a new US Homeland Security Signal Corps a model program funded with $50 million from the Federal government to create a specialized regiment of police, firefighters, EMTs, and other emergency personnel whose only job is to guarantee that first responders can communicate with one another, headquarters and the public at disaster sites and after terrorist attacks.

"When it comes to improving our emergency communications, Washington has sent New York City more requirements than resources and more caveats than cash," Schumer said. "The Federal government has more than a century of experience and expertise keeping the communications coming and going during chaos. Now its time for them to step up and provide us the money we need to model our own emergency communication system for the Finest and the Bravest on theirs."

The 9/11 Commission hearings in New York City this week reiterated that Washington still isn't doing nearly enough to help the New York Police Department (NYPD), the Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY), New York Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and others with radio interoperability and other persistent communication problems. The Commission heard testimony that a more unified central command post could have saved lives and helped pass word that the Twin Towers were about to collapse and needed to be evacuated. Commissioners also scrutinized the incompatible radio systems and other equipment used by agencies that responded to the attacks.

While relatively little new information was revealed this week about radio interoperability the ability for communications devices using different operating systems to work with each other, the hearings did underscore how little the Federal government has done to help local first responders, including the NYPD, FDNY, and EMTs improve their communication infrastructure.

Schumer today said that rather than having police, firefighters, and other individual groups of first responders attempt to coordinate communications at the same time they are responding to a disaster, New York needs a Homeland Security Signal Corps based on the US Army Signal Corps, a specialized military regiment whose only job is to guarantee that fighting forces on the battlefield can communicate with one another, headquarters and the public at all times.

First created over 140 years ago for the Civil War, the US Army Signal Corps provides and manages communications and information systems support for the command and control of combined armed forces. Their signal support work includes Network Operations (information assurance, information dissemination management, and network management) and management of the entire electromagnetic spectrum. They design install, operate, maintain, and manage information networks that include communications links, computers, and other components of local and wide area networks. With American forces working in coalition with armed forces from other nations in Europe, Afghanistan, and Iraq, the Signal Corps' responsibilities have grown to include integration of the communications systems operated by entirely separate military entities.

Schumer announced today that when Congress returns to Washington after Memorial Day, he will introduce legislation to create a new US Homeland Security Signal Corps modeled on the Army's Signal Corps. He noted that the idea is already being given serious consideration by the 9/11 Commission. Schumer's bill will designate $50 million for the program, and the New York City team would serve as a national pilot project and demonstration for other cities and regions across the country.

The US Homeland Security Signal Corps would be comprised of speciallytrained NYPD, FDNY, Port Authority, EMT, and other officers who would take adapt the "best of breed"communications technology from the military and would be responsible to for ensuring communications connectivity between the police and fire departments throughout their entire hierarchies. The team would be responsible for training and equipping fire and police units, ensuring that every unit has adequate trained personnel and equipment to deal with all contingencies, and securing jointuse equipment such as telecommunications trucks that can tap into surviving telephone land lines to supplement communications access.

In the military, the Signal Corps places a trained communicator in every platoon and a communications battalion in every brigade. The Corps ensures that there are people at every level with redundant communications equipment to deal with all environments and threats. For example, there might be multiple forms of wireless technology including cellular, FM, HF, satellite, and short wave, along with wired communications. Rather than give each communicator a dozen radios, the Homeland Security Signal Corps would identify the means of communication that work best in New York's tunnels, skyscrapers, and subways to ensure that where one means of communication might fail, another is likely to succeed.

Under Schumer's US Homeland Security Signal Act of 2004, the Mayor would appoint team captains to command communications companies that would be drawn from the ranks of police, firefighters, the Port Authority, EMTs, and other relevant agencies. The team captains would be charged with ensuring the "best of breed" equipment is identified, secured, and the team members are trained in the use of it. The Homeland Security Signal Corps would be funded with $50 million from the federal government and would work in close conjunction with the Department of Defense and its communications experts. Technical assistance will be provided by the Signal Corps Headquarters which is located Fort Monmouth, which is not far from Staten Island in New Jersey. New York's Homeland Security Signal Corps would serve as a model for other major metropolitan areas, none of which has solved the interoperability issues that plagued NYC on 9/11 and have yet to be fixed.

"When it comes to coordinating the communication between first responders, New York City is lightyears ahead of where we were on September 10, 2001. Now we're looking for a hand up, not a handout but instead we're just getting the back of the hand from Washington. It's gone on too long, and it has to stop," Schumer said.

Schumer was joined today by Peter Gorman, President of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association outside the NYPD's 17th Precinct House and the FDNY's Engine 8Ladder 2 House on East 51st Street in Manhattan.