FirstNet appoints former police captain Poth as new CEO, names Kennedy as president

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) Board is stepping up its game, announcing a restructuring of its senior management positions and the appointment of former police captain Michael Poth as the new CEO of FirstNet. TJ Kennedy, who has been acting executive director of FirstNet, will function in the role of president.


According to FirstNet, Poth brings a unique combination of public safety and technology experience to the position of CEO. He has two decades of executive management experience with Hewlett Packard and Northrop Grumman in the technology sector, with expertise in business development and strategic and operational business planning. Poth is a former public safety official, having served in police departments for 14 years, rising to the rank of captain.

Regarding the new management scheme, FirstNet in a press release said: "This approach reflects the key roles FirstNet's top executives must play given the complexity and importance of the FirstNet program and ensures the new titles accurately reflect the duties and responsibilities of FirstNet's senior-most executives."

The naming of a new CEO and Kennedy as president is significant given FirstNet's turbulent past in terms of its leadership. Board Chairwoman Sue Swenson took over her role in the spring of 2014 after former chairman Sam Ginn resigned. Almost from the beginning, Ginn and the board faced issues regarding perceptions of conflicts of interest and lack of transparency while operating as something akin to a start-up.

Since then, the association has been the subject of an Office of Inspector General investigation and Swenson has appeared for questioning before lawmakers about FirstNet's progress in building the nation's first broadband network dedicated to public safety. Swenson has acknowledged past controversies and pledged that the network will be operational by 2022, or "we should be shot."

Poth's experience in law enforcement and at technology companies is also worth noting, as FirstNet was accused early on in its structure of not including enough input from the public safety community and relying too much on vendors.

Poth will be based in FirstNet's Reston, Va., headquarters, where he will be responsible for guiding the final Request for Proposal(s) (RFP) scheduled to be released later this year. The RFP will focus on the partnerships required to build, market, operate and oversee the nationwide public safety broadband network.  

Functioning in the role of president, Kennedy will continue to provide insight and input into the RFP process, but will focus on overseeing FirstNet's outreach and technology efforts, including the areas of external communication, legislative affairs, public safety and state outreach, as well as the Boulder, Colo., technology team.

In related news, the FirstNet Board authorized to fund key Strategic Program Roadmap activities in Fiscal Year 2016 that are vital to the deployment of the nationwide public safety broadband network.

During a special meeting held today via teleconference, the board voted to adopt the Finance Committee's recommended budget of $126 million for FirstNet in fiscal year 2016. It will fund priorities in the areas of acquisition, consultation and corporate services, including a spectrum relocation grant program to clear spectrum for the network by moving current public safety incumbents to other bands.

"This budget, like prior years, supports the key outcomes and deliverables that the FirstNet team is focused on to stay on track with the Strategic Program Roadmap," Swenson said in a statement. "I am also pleased that the budget was developed and approved in advance of the new fiscal year enabling the team to maintain momentum towards the next set of key milestones."

In approving Resolution 66, "Fiscal Year 2016 Budget," the board authorizes FirstNet management to obligate spending up to $86 million on acquisition activities to include the finalization and evaluation of the RFP, cyber security and spectrum relocation; $28.7 million for consultation and outreach to the states, territories, federal agencies, tribal governments and local jurisdictions; and $11.3 million in corporate services and other expenses, according to a press release.

For  more:
- see these two FirstNet press releases
- see this IWCE's Urgent Communications commentary

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