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Wireless On the Homefront

Even on the mainland, there is a woeful lack of readiness on the wireless front, especially when you consider that the PDAs and handhelds are regularly used by business, industry, and the federal government—mostly notably, the U.S. Post Office. Yet these readily available tools are not in the hands of our National Guard. Only recently has the National Guard made plans to include robust wireless capabilities in protecting the nation. However, these systems will not be fully operational until 2005 due to a lack of funding for technology. Nevertheless, the National Guard's CIO, Maureen T. Lischke, has made it a top priority to place wireless devices in the hands of officers in the field to be able to capture and relay critical information within hours of a disaster. In a further development, the National Guard is coordinating its emergency response communication efforts with the Army Reserve.

Support for wireless applications during critical events has come directly from the White House. President Bush's budget for 2003 calls for $60 million to develop a Priority Wireless Access system, so the cell phone calls made by emergency personnel may be completed "in a timely manner." Thus, authorized users will have priority to cellular networks at times of crisis. This initiative is a direct response to the problems that resulted from congestions and delays experienced on 9/11. Similarly, many blame the inadequacies of wireless systems in use by the New York City firefighters as contributing to the high death rate because hundreds did not hear the call to evacuate the World Trade Center.

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