This is a continuation of an interview with Brian Bark of Mission Critical Partners. Click here to read the first part of the interview.
ExecutiveBiz: When you’re talking about the alignment of these efforts and executing these projects financing seems to be an interesting area. What are the financing strategies that MCP follows or uses in order to execute or bring projects online?
Brian Bark: In every project we do, we try to get in alignment with our client or clients by defining success in their terms. We ask them what success looks like for them? A big part of reaching success is making sure the right stakeholders are at the table. To the extent possible, we want as many stakeholders as possible. We want to converge programs and not isolate them from other programs.
Where we have opportunities to share assets that already exist, there’s no need to build new. The barrier to sharing an asset, technology, or approach that already exists is figuring out how to best govern the process, especially when another government program or agency is involved. How do you share it? What is the governance structure? Who gets what? Who manages what? Who pays for what?
Ultimately, it’s all taxpayer dollars. But the technologies that support public safety are not all that much different, albeit they’re more secure and they have to be more reliable. They have to be the last thing standing when other systems are not. Other agencies and governments also need similar technologies. But, to the extent that we can share, we encourage that.
We focus on helping our clients do more with what they already have, and we encourage them to recognize the opportunities to share operations, capacity, or technology with others who have similar needs in order to achieve some efficiency. At the end of the day, we want success to be defined by the results not by the process. To us that means rolling up our sleeves, working at the executive level of programs, and looking at each project to find those efficiencies.
It’s key for us to understand the overall program goals and understand what we’ve been asked to do to find success for that client, so that they're delighted when we're done and the problem is truly solved. We never want to isolate a particular technology or operational goal from the general goal of enhancing public safety response.
ExecutiveBiz: For public safety, in particular with MCP, what technologies are you focusing on that can drive the results that you’re looking for? What are you looking at three to five years or even further down the road as real value drivers?
Brian Bark: We view IT networks ““ and the software applications on them ““ as the key to enhancing capabilities beyond where we’ve had them before. If we can network jurisdictions and our clients together, they can share information, data, and provide disaster recovery for one another.
Network security will continue to be a big deal. I think the cybersecurity elements that we’re reading about and seeing in the media reports are real. We haven’t really been tested in the public safety community to the extent that we could be. And we’re going to have to increase our attentiveness to that issue.
The world’s a smaller place now. Our communities and our constituents don’t recognize community or political boundaries. We’re all very mobile as a society. We need to recognize that our response and information sharing capabilities can’t stop at our community boundaries.
I imagine, in the future, we’ll be leveraging private sector and public sector camera or video capabilities to detect trends from foes and it will make us more able to deploy our scarce resources better. From our standpoint, you can boil it all down to networking. Now, and in the future, the ability to network technology and operations to share information between jurisdictions will increase effectiveness and efficiencies.
Can you point to any individual projects that MCP is currently working on or has recently completed that may indicate how you help overcome these challenges?
We are really proud to be a part of a really rewarding project that creates a 13“‘county network in southwestern Pennsylvania. It’s a pilot for the Commonwealth and for the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA). It’s partially deployed and will be fully deployed in the next two to three months.
That network will be owned and operated by the government agencies themselves. They have developed a governance model and they have already advanced to a point well beyond where they were three or four years ago. Today those 13 counties plan together, train together, are united under a joint terrorism task force program, and they share public safety communication applications and a common 911 telephony system.
Several of the counties are sharing a common trunked radio platform and shared video conferencing, all on the same network. Within the next two years, there will be backhaul to a network operations center in Harrisburg, the state capitol, at the new Pennsylvania emergency management agency, state emergency operations center.
Network security is a component of that project, as is a future migration strategy to that next level of next generation capability. That program requires coordination and investments between federal, state and local governments, which benefit all of the 13 counties and eventually the rest of the Commonwealth.
The current governance of the network and the security of the network allow one county to impact all of its partner counties. We're working to evaluate and improve this and to make sure there are some requirements in place to prevent security issues and network capacity issues. It’s a trial that these counties haven’t faced before as there’s not really a centralized manager. It’s shared management at this time between the 13 counties.
We're also helping our clients overcome the demographic challenges associated with the network. For example, one county participating in the project has a population of 38,000 while another has a population of 1.3 million. They are both sharing the same platform, the same capabilities and prepared to provide mutual aid, to the extent possible, in sharing information, providing backup capacity with staff and response capability.
So far the first five counties are online and we're already seeing very positive results.
What are you be most excited about, moving forward, from your company perspective and what are you looking most forward to accomplishing in the next couple of years?
We find satisfaction in serving our clients and being a part of what makes them better. We really take a lot of pride in working with executives to lay out the vision and execute the vision on their behalf, whether they’re public safety executives, managers or elected officials.
Over the next few years we look forward to working on Long Term Evolution (LTE) and the creation of a Public Safety Broadband Network, which will create a national technology platform for sharing information. We'll anticipate helping our clients with the challenge of finding the funding to make it work in a real-time, real-world environment.
I was blessed to be in public service for the first 20 years of my career. Those working in public safety are busy everyday responding to local and regional emergencies, so when a change in technology, policy, and capabilities comes along, it has a big impact on their mission. They will likely need help adapting to the changes in the telecommunications capabilities that are on the horizon.
These changes will require them to respond to and be able to receive the data that comes from different devices, like SmartPhones, video cameras, etc. Ultimately these are just additional tools in their tool box to improve emergency response and public safety, and we want to help make sure those and support them in that response security community. It’s just making sure that those tools are coordinated and deployed consistently in a uniform manner so that everyone is moving in the same direction nationally. We look forward to being a part of the journey.