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GAO Report - FirstNet on Track

Agency Makes Four Suggestions

January 27, 2019 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released January 27, 2020.

Conclusions of the Report: "The FirstNet public-safety broadband network has the potential to save lives every day. Since beginning their 25-year partnership, AT&T has made progress deploying the network and meeting contractual milestones and goals, and FirstNet has employed a variety of mechanisms—many of which align with key practices—to oversee AT&T’s performance. However, the success of the network depends not only on AT&T’s contract execution and FirstNet’s oversight but also on the confidence of the end users, the nation’s first responders. As FirstNet enters the next phases of its partnership with AT&T, it could reduce the risks to the network’s long-term success by strengthening its schedule oversight; increasing transparency, communication, and reporting of additional information to states and other public-safety stakeholders; and obtaining Conclusions Page 29 GAO-20-346 Public-Safety Broadband Network and using meaningful information on the satisfaction of the first responders for whom the network is intended.

We are making the following four recommendations to FirstNet:

• FirstNet’s Chief Executive Officer should take steps to ensure that the integrated master schedule for the program is developed and maintained in accordance with the best practices provided in GAO’s Schedule Assessment Guide. (Recommendation 1)

• FirstNet’s Chief Executive Officer should identify additional information about the program, including FirstNet’s oversight and monitoring activities, that can be shared with public-safety stakeholders and periodically communicate and report this information to them. (Recommendation 2)

• FirstNet’s Chief Executive Officer should share relevant portions of the accepted state-specific commitment reports with the states, as specified in the contract. (Recommendation 3)

• FirstNet’s Chief Executive Officer should, in consultation with public safety stakeholders and its contractor, as appropriate, identify and obtain periodic information or meaningful indicators on end-users’ satisfaction that would serve as a metric to gauge performance quality, including the effect of the FirstNet network and products on public-safety operations. (Recommendation 4)

We provided a draft of the sensitive report to FirstNet for review and comment. FirstNet’s comments on the sensitive report are reprinted in appendix II. In these comments, FirstNet stated that it agreed with all of our recommendations; will take appropriate additional steps to apply lessons learned and address our concerns; and will continue to find ways to improve transparency with and feedback from its stakeholders, in addition to refining the integrated master schedule. Separately, FirstNet also provided technical comments, which we incorporated as appropriate. "

The GAO report was requested by Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the communications, technology, innovation and the Internet subcommittee. GAO issued the full version of the report in December. The January 27, 2020 release is a “public version of a sensitive report” of the full report, noting that “information that FirstNet deemed proprietary has been omitted.”

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