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National Communications System (NCS)

The National Communications System (NCS) consists of 23-member organizations tasked with ensuring that the Federal Government has the necessary communications under all conditions from normal situations to national emergencies and international crises. When NCS was established in 1963 following the Cuban Missile Crisis, its mission was to plan and coordinate a single, unified communications system. Over the years that focus has changed to reflect a more proactive role in assisting the President and the Executive Office of the President with emergency telecommunications and providing National Security/Emergency Preparedness (NS/EP) communications. Originally created with six members in 1963, the NCS was expanded by E.O. 12472 to the current 23 members: Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Interior, Justice, State, Transportation, Treasury, Veterans Affairs, Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Communications Commission, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Federal Reserve Board, General Services Administration, The Joint Staff, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Security Agency, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, U.S. Information Agency, and U.S. Postal Service. The NCS has increasingly provided communications support in the aftermath of such disasters as the Los Angeles Earthquake, Hurricanes Andrew, Hugo, and Opal, and coordinating telecommunications for worldwide humanitarian aid efforts.

The National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee [NSTAC] provides advice and information from the industry perspective to the President and the Executive Branch regarding policy and enhancements to national security and emergency preparedness (NS/EP) telecommunications. National Security Decision Directive No. 97 (NSDD-97) stipulates that U.S. Government missions and posts overseas must have the required telecommunications facilities and services to satisfy the Nationís needs during international emergencies. The NCS requested that the NSTAC advise the Department of State (DOS) on the vulnerability and risks inherent in overseas leased networks and offer remedial measures. On September 27, 1983, the IES formed the International Diplomatic Telecommunications (IDT) Task Force to study the issue and develop recommendations. In December 1984, the NSTAC identified Telecommunications Service Priority (TSP) as an urgent issue because of the need for a system that authorized both priority provisioning and restoration of NS/EP services for Federal, State, and local governments and private users. The TSP System replaced the Restoration Priority (RP) System, which covered only the restoration of Federal Government, intercity, and private lines.

The National Coordinating Center for Telecommunications (NCC) a joint industry-Government operations center for planning, coordination, and exercise of NS/EP telecommunications, is the direct result of an NSTAC recommendation. An activation of NTMS Response Level III would occur in anticipation of a national security emergency or concurrently with Presidential activation of the Federal national security structure. During Response Level III, staff assigned to the National Emergency Management Team (NEMT) Communications Functional Group (CFG), the NCC, multiple Regional Emergency Management Team (REMT) CFGs, and government and industry NTMS Operating Centers (OC) will move to predetermined locations and prepare to respond to the threat. The capabilities which the NCC uses during emergencies include the Communications Resource Information Sharing (CRIS) initiative, the Emergency Response Fly-Away Kit (ERFAK), the Emergency Response Link (ERLink), the Government Emergency Telecommunications Service (GETS), the SHAred RESources (SHARES) High Frequency (HF) Radio Program, and the Telecommunications Service Priority (TSP) System.

SHARES provides a single interagency emergency message handling system to transmit NS/EP information during disasters by consolidating HF radio resources belonging to 53 Federal and federally affiliated organizations. The SHARES network consists of 1040 HF radio stations located in the US and abroad, 335 emergency planning and response personnel, and over 250 HF frequencies. The Manager, NCC, is responsible for day-to-day operations of SHARES, while the Manager, NCS, is responsible for the overall SHARES program.

Sources and Resources

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