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When they deserve it, we don't hesitate to criticize either NAB, CTIA or FCC.

Comm. Rosenworcel on Hiring FCC Engineers

At a GSMA conference in Atlanta on 9/22, FCC Comm. Jessica Rosenworcel spoke of several spectrum topics of interest to the readers of this blog.

She made 5 predictions:

  1. Clearing more federal spectrum will be slow going unless we provide federal authorities with incentives to relocate.
  2. We will need to look high and look low to find spectrum for next generation wireless networks.
  3. Spectrum use will become more efficient if we challenge ourselves.
  4. We need more Wi-Fi.
  5. The government will do a better job of fostering innovation with an infusion of young engineers.

Readers will recall that the issue of FCC hiring of engineers and the difference between lawyer recruiting and engineering recruiting has been a recurring topic here. So it was gratifying to hear that the commissioner has very similar thoughts on engineering hiring at FCC as your blogger. We hope that others indicate to the 8th Floor support for Comm. Rosenworcel’s viewpoints for the benefits of all regulated industries. Of course if you prefer that technical proceedings be dominated by lawyers and drag on forever, feel free to support the status quo.

Engineers are deployed throughout the government. At the FCC we have more than 250 of them. They are an integral part of our team, and their input is absolutely vital on spectrum policy.
But I think that across government it is time for a fresh infusion in our engineering ranks. Think of it as a new Americorps, an engineering corps that can modernize the work of government and open opportunities for innovation.
That’s big. So let me start closer to home. Over the past several years, the FCC has been able to recruit talented, young legal professionals through an honors attorney program. In fact, one of the alumni of this program—David Goldman—works in my office and is just the kind of professional we want to recruit to public service.
I think the program that brought David to the FCC needs an engineering counterpart. So I think we should create an honors program for young engineers. It would bring new vigor to the ranks of our technical experts. By mixing young men—and women—with experienced engineers already on staff, the FCC could be better prepared to face the challenges of next-generation communications networks.


Recruiting@FCC: FCC Starts Looking for New Lawyers but Not Engineers


Engineering staffing issues at FCC have been a recurring topic here. We previously wrote about a report from the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council supported by funding from the National Science Foundation that recommended to “(m)ake it a priority to recruit top­caliber engineers/scientists to work at the FCC, perhaps for limited terms.” (Let’s ignore the issue that other regulatory agencies with technical jurisdiction routinely ask NAS/NRC for reports about their technical regulatory issues while FCC hasn’t in decades.)

In 2006 and 2012 we have raised issues about why FCC isn’t recruiting on college campuses at the time when the best students are looking for jobs. We believe that last year FCC did not recruit for even lawyers due to budget issues, but now they are back at reciting for lawyers early in the academic year, but not engineers.

In the link for information given in the above release, there is the following statement that has never had a counterpart for engineers at FCC:

Participants may have the opportunity to rotate to a new assignment within the agency at the end of their first year. During their two years in the Honors Program, attorneys will also be afforded professional and educational opportunities designed specifically for Program participants.

The FCC bureaus and offices that hire engineers have historically rejected the idea of a rotation program for entry level engineers even though it is standard practice at most federal agencies. The basic logic is that entry level engineers are generally give boring tasks to reduce application backlogs in the near term and that is more important than the long term benefits of rotation and trying to put “square pegs in square holes”.


Spectrum Job Open at NTIA

Don’t like the way Uncle Sam does spectrum policy? Think you can do a better job? Here is a new job opening at NTIA. We have no other information:

Job Title: Telecommunications Policy Specialist (DEU) (Spectrum Clearing)
Department: Department Of Commerce
Agency: National Telecommunications and Information Administration
Job Announcement Number: NTIA-FRNA-2014-0069

$89,924.00 to $138,136.00 / Per Year
Wednesday, April 16, 2014 to Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Career or Career Conditional - Full Time/Permanent
1 vacancy in the following location:
Washington DC, DC
All qualified U.S. citizens
This position is currently located in Washington D.C. but will relocate to Reston, VA in the near future. This position is also being announced concurrently under Merit Assignment Procedures (MAP) vacancy number: NTIA-FRNA-2014-0068. Applicants who wish to be considered under MAP must apply to both vacancies separately. This position is located in the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC), National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet). FirstNet is a new independent authority within NTIA that will be responsible to design, build, deploy, operate, and maintain a nationwide, interoperable public safety broadband network pursuant to Title VI of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, Pub. L. No. 112-96 (the Act). FirstNet holds a single, public safety wireless license of 22 megahertz (MHz) of spectrum between the frequencies of 758-769 MHz and 788-799 MHz.
The specialist in this position will report to the Director of Regulatory Strategy of FirstNet and will be responsible for performing complex assignments concerning the extensive range of spectrum issues for FirstNet. The position will perform work with a high degree of transparency and include the FirstNet leadership in the work being done.
For details surf over to https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/367394100
Here are some jobs now open in spectrum policy at FCC also:
(This is actually an unusually large number of such openings at the same time.)
Electronics Engineer
This position is located in the Office of Engineering and Technology, Laboratory Division in Columbia, MD. THIS ANNOUNCEMENT HAS BEEN AMENDED TO EXTEND THE CLOSING DATE TO 4/28/14 FROM 4/21/14.

Salary:$106,263.00 - $157,100.00 / Per Year
Series & Grade:GS-0855-14/15
Location(s):Columbia, Maryland
Open Period:4/7/2014 to 4/28/2014
Announcement Number:DEU-OET-2014-002

Electronics Engineer
This position is located in the International Bureau, Strategic Analysis and Negotiations Division, Cross Border Negotiations and Treaty Compliance Branch. Relocation expenses will not be paid.

Salary:$63,091.00 - $116,901.00 / Per Year
Series & Grade:GS-0855-11/13
Location(s):District of Columbia, District of Columbia
Open Period:4/16/2014 to 5/15/2014
Announcement Number:DEU-IB-2014-001

Electronics Engineer
This position is located in the Office of Engineering and Technology, Policy and Rules Division.

Salary:$75,621.00 - $116,901.00 / Per Year
Series & Grade:GS-0855-12/13
Location(s):District of Columbia, District of Columbia
Open Period:4/8/2014 to 4/22/2014
Announcement Number:DEU-OET-2014-003

Travis LeBlanc - New Chief of FCC's Enforcement Bureau

Travis LeBlanc has arrived at FCC as the new Acting Chief of the Enforcement Bureau in the past 2 weeks, His name is missing from the online telephone/e-mail directory, but it is shown along with the photo at left on the EB home page. (The “acting” seems to be formality and may be the result of a pending career SES appointment that needs approval from OPM.) We believe he is the first to hold that job who has not been a long term FCC staffer. However, he has been active in enforcement efforts in the California state government and thus probably has more enforcement experience than his predecessors at EB.

On March 4, 2014, Chmn. Wheeler announced his “intent to appoint” Mr. LeBlanc:

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced today his intent to appoint Travis LeBlanc as acting Chief of the Enforcement Bureau. Mr. LeBlanc previously served as a top deputy and senior advisor to California Attorney General Kamala Harris, overseeing the office’s operations and activities involving complex litigation and policy matters on a broad range of issues such as technology regulation, telecommunications, high-tech crime, cyber-security, privacy, intellectual property and antitrust.

“The credibility of the Commission’s rules depends on its enforcement activities,” said ChairmanWheeler. “Travis LeBlanc brings a wealth of experience with both federal and state law enforcement,most recently in the largest state Attorney General’s office in the country. He is a savvy prosecutor who also knows how to secure agreements with private companies in order to advance the public mission.”During his time in the Office of the California Attorney General, Mr. LeBlanc established and oversaw California’s first high-tech crime and privacy enforcement units. He also secured global agreements witha number of high-tech companies to protect consumer privacy, promote online safety and respectintellectual property rights.

Before joining the California AG, Mr. LeBlanc was an attorney in the Office of Legal Counsel at the United States Department of Justice, where he advised the President and Attorney General on significantmatters of constitutional, statutory and regulatory law. Prior to joining OLC, Mr. LeBlanc was anattorney at Keker & Van Nest LLP in San Francisco, and Williams & Connolly LLP in Washington DC,where he represented corporate and individual clients in criminal and civil cases in federal and statecourts.

Mr. LeBlanc holds an A.B. from Princeton University, a J.D. from Yale Law School, an M.P.A. from theJohn F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and an LL.M. in International Law from the University of Cambridge. He served as a law clerk to the Honorable Stephen Reinhardt of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

The Enforcement Bureau is the FCC’s largest bureau and the primary organizational unit responsible forenforcement of provisions of the Communications Act, the Commission’s rules, Commission orders andterms and conditions of station authorizations.

We welcome Mr. LeBlanc and wish him best as EB tries to sort out its priorities.

[We would like to point out, as we have previously, that the use of the phrase, “FCC Chairman X announced today his intent to appoint Y …” is apparently inappropriate since bureau chiefs are appointed by the Commission pursuit to Section 4(f)(1) of the Communications Act. However, the previous post shows that this type of announcement is not unique here: Chmn. Kinnard and Martin used the same active verbs. However, Chmn. Kinnard also used less active forms of statements as have Chmn. Powell and Hundt. Perhaps the active/passive verbs in the announcement depends on how sensitive the Chairman’s Office staffers are to the other commissioners or whether they are career civil servants themselves.]


In an FCC news release dated September 2, 2014 it was revealed that Mr. LeBlanc was still “Acting Chief of the Enforcement Bureau” almost 6 months after the announcement discussed above. Why the delay?

Possibly the previously discussed “back office problems”. Career SES appointments require OPM approval and peer review at OPM by SES career civil servants to minimize political players moving into such career positions. Perhaps HR was slow. Perhaps OPM is slow. No real evidence except the apparent delay in making his appointment final.

When I was promoted to SES in 1981 the final approval took a long time due to inattention in the FCC HR operation to getting the right information onto the paperwork to OPM. Perhaps the same is still going on?