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HHS IRM Policy for Government Emergency Telecommunication System Cards Ordering, Usage and Termination

November 25, 2002


Table of Contents

1. Purpose
2. Background
3. Scope
4. Policy
5. Roles and Responsibilities
   5.1 The OPDIV CIOS
   5.2 Management Officials
   5.3 HHS Employees and Users of HHS IT Resources
6. Applicable Laws/Guidance
7. Information and Assistance
8. Effective Date/Implementation
9. Approved
10. Glossary

1.  Purpose

The purpose of this Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) document is to establish policy for the issuance, usage and termination of the Government Emergency Telecommunications Systems (GETS) cards. This policy establishes new privileges and additional responsibilities for employees in HHS. It recognizes these employees as responsible individuals who are the key to making government more responsive to its citizens during crisis situations. It allows HHS personnel who are issued the GETS cards to maintain critical communications during emergencies when the telephone systems are congested due to traffic over load. It is also the purpose of this policy to allow the OPDIVs management control of their GETS program in such a manner that GETS can fit into the normal work flow of the OPDIV.

2.  Background

The Government Emergency Telecommunications Service (GETS) is a telecommunications service provided by the Office of the Manager, National Communications System (OMNCS) that supports Federal, state, and local government, industry, and non-profit organization personnel in performing their National Security and Emergency Preparedness (NS/EP) missions. GETS provides emergency access and priority processing in the local and long distance segments of the Public Switched Network (PSN). It is intended to be used in an emergency or crisis situation during which the probability of completing a call over normal or other alternate telecommunication means has significantly decreased.

GETS is necessary because of our increasing reliance on telecommunications. Over the past years, the economic viability and technical feasibility of such advances as nationwide fiber optic networks, high-speed digital switching, and intelligent features have revolutionized the way we communicate. This growth has been accompanied by an increased vulnerability to system failures. Although backup systems are in place, disruptions in service can still occur. Recent events have shown that natural disasters, power outages, fiber cable cuts, and software problems can cripple the telephone services of entire regions. Additionally, congestion in the public switched network (PSN), such as the well-documented "Mother's Day phenomenon," can prevent access to circuits. However, during times of emergency, crisis, or war, personnel with NS/EP missions need to know that their calls will go through. GETS addresses this need. Using enhancements based on existing commercial technology, GETS allows the NS/EP community to communicate over existing PSN paths with a high likelihood of call completion during the most severe conditions of high-traffic congestion and disruption. The result is a cost-effective, easy-to-use telephone service that is accessed through a simple dialing plan and Personal Identification Number (PIN) card verification methodology. It is maintained in a constant state of readiness and provides a cost-effective means to overcome network outages through such methods as enhanced routing and priority treatment.

This policy is based on a model policy adopted by the Chief Information Officers' Council for the Executive Branch.

3.  Scope

This policy applies to all Departmental Operating Divisions, including the Office of the Secretary, and organizations conducting business for and on behalf of the Department through contractual relationships when using HHS IT resources. The policy contained in this HHS document apply to all HHS IT activities including the equipment, procedures and technologies that are employed in managing these activities as they apply to GETS card issuance, usage and termination. The policy includes teleworking, travel and other off-site locations as well as all of the office locations of the Department. This policy does not supersede any other applicable law or higher-level agency directive or policy guidance. Agency officials shall apply this policy to contractor personnel, interns, and other non-government employees through incorporation by reference in contracts or memoranda of agreement as conditions for using Government provided IT resources. GETS card issuance, usage and termination is at the discretion of government management and the card holders are personally accountable for the safety and use according to government use of the card as evidenced by signature for government property.

Supported Functions:

  • Presidential Communications
  • Continuity of Government Operations
  • International Interface for Diplomatic and Defense Telecommunications
  • Agency Essential Emergency Functions
  • Emergency Broadcast System Interface
  • State Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs)
  • Disaster Response

Qualification Categories:

There are five broad categories that serve as guidelines for determining who may qualify as a potential GETS user. These users may be in Federal, state, or local government, industry, or non-profit organizations. The final decision on whether or not an individual is eligible to become a GETS user is the responsibility of that individual's organization.

These five categories are included in Section 4, Policy, of this document

4.  Policy

The following policy shall be in effect for each Operating Division unless the Operating Division adopts a more restrictive set of policies or existing labor management agreements preclude one or more of the aspects of the policy below.


There are five broad categories that serve as guidelines for determining who may qualify as a potential GETS user. These users may be in Federal, state, or local government, industry, or non-profit organizations. The final decision on whether or not an individual is eligible to become a GETS user is the responsibility of that individual's organization. (Taken directly from the National Communications System Web Pages)

  1. National Security Leadership
    This user performs NS/EP functions essential to national survival when nuclear attacks threatens or occurs. This may be expanded to other forms of attack such as bioterrorism or cyber. In addition, this user provides support to critical orderwire and services necessary to ensure the rapid and efficient provisioning or restoration of other NS/EP services. These user functions may include the following:
    • Critical orderwire or control service supporting other NS/EP functions;
    • Presidential support critical to continuity of government and national security leadership;
    • National Command Authority support for military command and control critical to national survival;
    • Intelligence critical to warning of potentially catastrophic attack;
    • Support for the conduct of diplomatic negotiations critical to arresting or limiting hostilities.
  2. National Security Posture and U.S. Population Warning
    This user type performs additional NS/EP functions essential to maintaining an optimum defense, diplomatic, or continuity of government posture before, during, and after crisis situations. Such situations are those ranging from national emergencies to international crises, including nuclear attack. This may be expanded to other forms of attack such as bioterrorism or cyber. These user functions may include the following:
    • Threat assessment and attack warning;
    • Conduct of diplomacy;
    • Collection, processing, and dissemination of intelligence;
    • Command and control of military forces;
    • Military mobilization;
    • Continuity of Federal government before, during, and after crisis situations;
    • Continuity of state and local government functions supporting the Federal government during and after national emergencies;
    • Recovery of critical national functions after crisis situations;
    • National space operations.
  3. Public Health, Safety, and Maintenance of Law and Order
    The user type performs NS/EP functions necessary for giving civil alert to the US population by maintaining law and order and the health and safety of the US population in times of national, regional, or serious local emergency. These user functions may include the following:
    • Population warning (other than attack warning);
    • Law Enforcement ;
    • Continuity of critical state and local government functions (other than support of the Federal government during and after national emergencies);
    • Hospitals and distribution of medical supplies;
    • Critical logistic functions and public utility services;
    • Civil air traffic control;
    • Military assistance to civil authorities;
    • Defense and protection of critical industrial facilities;
    • Critical weather services;
    • Transportation to accomplish foregoing NS/EP functions.
  4. Public Welfare and Maintenance of National Economic Posture
    This user type performs NS/EP functions necessary for maintaining the public welfare and national economic posture during any national or regional emergency. These user functions may include the following:
    • Distribution of food and other essential supplies;
    • Maintenance of national monetary, credit, and financial systems ;
    • Maintenance of price, wage, rent, and salary stabilization, and consumer rationing programs;
    • Control of production and distribution of strategic materials and energy Supplies;
    • Prevention and control of environmental hazards or damage;
    • Transportation to accomplish the foregoing NS/EP functions.
  5. Disaster Recovery
    This user type performs NS/EP functions of managing a variety of recovery operations after the initial response has been accomplished. These user functions may include the following:
    • Managing medical resources such as supplies, personnel, or patients in medical facilities.
    • Other activities such as coordination to establish and stock shelters, to obtain detailed damage assessments, or to support key disaster field office personnel may be included. Examples of those eligible include:
      1. Medical recovery operations leadership;
      2. Detailed damage assessment leadership;
      3. Disaster shelter coordination and management;
      4. Critical Disaster Field Office support personnel.

5.  Roles and Responsibilities

5.1.     The OPDIV CIOS

5.1.1.  The OPDIV CIOS are responsible for OPDIV GETS Card Inventory; Identifying and authorizing users for their OPDIV; Retrieval and official cancellation of cards upon termination of a user's employment or change in status. While the CIO for each OPDIV will remain responsible for the overall GETS program in their respective OPDIV, each OPDIV will have the discretion to determine the official responsible for managing the program as well as defining OPDIV specific program management functions such as inventory control, training and other management functions.

5.2     Management Officials

5.2.1.  Management official are responsible for:
- Insuring that users receive proper GETS card training and instructions of use;
- Enforcing proper GETS card usage.

5.3     HHS Employees and Users of HHS IT Resources

5.3.6. HHS Employees and Users of HHS IT Resources are responsible for adhering to OPDIV and HHS Gets Card Policy; Proper Security of GETS cards in their possession.

6.  Applicable Laws/Guidance

See additional information and instructions for ordering, canceling and program training at the NCS Web site WWW.NCS.GOV.

7.  Information and Assistance

Direct questions, comments, suggestions or requests for further information to the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Information Resources Management, (202) 690-6162.

8.  Effective Date/Implementation

The effective date of this policy is the date the policy is approved.

These policies and procedures will not be implemented in any recognized bargaining unit until the union has been provided notice of the proposed changes and given an opportunity to fully exercise its representational rights.

The HHS policies contained in this issuance shall be exercised in accordance with Public Law 93-638, the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, as amended, and the Secretary's policy statement dated August 7, 1997, as amended, titled "Department Policy on Consultation with American Indian/Alaska Native Tribes and Indian Organizations." It is HHS' policy to consult with Indian people to the greatest practicable extent and to the extent permitted by law before taking actions that effect these governments and people; to assess the impact of the Department's plans, projects, programs and activities on tribal and other available resources; and to remove any procedural impediments to working directly with tribal governments or Indian people.

9.  Approved

____/s/_____________________                    _November 25, 2002________
Janet Hale                                                                 DATE
Assistant Secretary for Budget, Technology and Finance

10.  Glossary

NCS - National Communications System

GETS - Government Emergency Telephone System