ClearanceJobs talked with Billy Bob Brown Jr. about his role as the Executive Assistant Director for Emergency Communications at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), his work in emergency communications, and how the agency is helping save lives through technology.

Career Path to Emergency Communications

After Brown spent 20 years in the military, his work with a government IT contractor and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), his drive to serve his country kept him supporting the federal space. Brown considers it a joy to find ways to support the U.S. Constitution and the balance between the local jurisdictions and federal mandates. While state governments have some authorities, the rest is left to the local jurisdictions, which means that there are many jurisdictions all across the nation at various levels that have responsibility and authority for their work. And, if we’re trying to do something on a national scale, we all have to work together.

Brown explains, “Everybody has responsibilities in order for all of us to succeed. And driving interoperability across the nation, the feds have some responsibilities, the states have certain responsibilities, the local level jurisdictions have some responsibilities. And if at any one of those levels, if someone doesn’t do their part, then the team is not able to succeed.”

Technology and Emergency Communications

CISA is in the business of supporting emergency responders, first responders, emergency service officials, and critical infrastructure. As decision-making officials move information for mission essential operations, every second counts. In the evolution of technology, over the years, changes like moving away from analog or upgrading from copper to fiber optics all serve to advance communication capabilities. It’s important to have emergency information be interoperable, so it can easily get to the right people.

CISA is constantly looking at how emergency communications will operate in the future. As carrier and network service provider partners continue their efforts, AI and machine learning are going to be critical components of how future networks are developed, managed, and secured. Emergency communications at CISA are critically linked with industry partners to deliver the best and most robust capabilities to all the government and emergency management personnel across the nation.

And when it comes to emergency situations, it’s important to consider all threats and hazards to technology, including the adversarial challenges.

Biggest Challenges CISA Addresses

The concepts laid out in the U.S. Preamble for our pursuit of happiness and right to life requires that we work together. However, we tend to be more individualistic instead of focusing on the collective “we.”

CISA’s strategic team-building is focused on helping private sector partners recognize that Americans depend on nationwide services that must work together. The key is to not be divided.

Brown says, “CISA is always looking for new people to join the team with great ideas. With new perspectives, obviously diversity across our workforce is something that’s critical because we need to reach across the entirety of the nation in a way that’s empathetically understanding the concern, the requirements, and the needs. Because everybody in the United States is a part of the “we,” and we need to ensure that their voices are being heard collectively, as we try to develop those principles, ideas, practices, and techniques to improve security and resilience.”

While emergencies bring people together, they’re not the time to work on process improvement or relationship building – those are best done during what Brown calls blue sky times. Brown says, “Only 20% of the interoperability problem is technology…80% of the problem are people related.” CISA brings people together to cooperate and collaborate on seamless and collective solutions.


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