Former Utah CIO Stephen Fletcher has taken a position with the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA), heading-up the newly created Office of Public Safety Communications (OPSC).
The OPSC will oversee the state and local public safety grant program established by the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012. The office will also assist FirstNet (First Responder Network Authority) — which is charged with rolling out the National Public Safety Broadband Network — with procurement and other activities.
Fletcher has been on the job as associate administrator of the OPSC since Nov. 5, 2012. In an email with Government Technology, he said that he’s followed the activities of the public safety community for years and was excited to see legislation passed to establish FirstNet.
“I am intrigued by the idea that this will be a start-up venture under the umbrella of government,” Fletcher wrote. “It is a big, complex project — a nationwide project — and this is very appealing to me. This project will also allow me to continue to interact with all of the state and local relationships I have built up over the years.”
FirstNet will build and deploy the new nationwide emergency broadband network based on a single, national, network architecture. It will enable true interoperability among first responders and public safety officials across the country.
Fletcher’s diverse background should lend itself nicely to his new role. He served as CIO both for Utah and the U.S. Department of Education, developing knowledge about the procurement and grant-making process. He was responsible for the communications-related functions of Utah’s statewide public safety network.
Appointed Utah’s CIO in 2005, Fletcher was noted for his leadership with regard to the state’s enterprisewide IT consolidation and centralization. He also is a past president of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers, and in 2008 was named one of Government Technology’s Top 25 Doers, Dreamers and Drivers.
Fletcher resigned as CIO of Utah last May, after a huge security breach in the Utah Department of Health. Discovered on April 2, the March 30 breach was believed to compromise 280,000 Social Security numbers and the personal information of approximately 500,000 people, including names, addresses, birth dates and some details contained in patient health records.
Despite his less-than-celebrated exit from Utah, Fletcher said he believes the experience is something he can apply to FirstNet as it comes to fruition. He felt the biggest lesson learned from the Utah data breach is that in projects of that size — or in an emergency — it’s critical to increase the level of communication among stakeholders.
“The best way to do that is to plan for it and build it from inception,” Fletcher said. “So when an emergency happens you will … be able to react to the problem rather than first having to define the process. This will be useful as the network unfolds.”
Photo courtesy of the National Telecommunications & Information Administration
Brian Heaton was a writer for Government Technology magazine from 2011 to mid-2015.