Director's Order graphic


Approved: /s/ Robert Stanton
Director, National Park Service

Effective Date: November 8, 1999

Sunset Date: November 8, 2003


The purpose of this Director's Order is to set forth the instructions and requirements for National Park Service managers to obtain and maintain effective wireless telecommunications systems which comply with all relevant standards and authorities. Telecommunications facilities proposed by commercial providers to be sited on NPS lands are addressed in Director’s Order #53: Special Park Uses.


Authority to issue this Director’s Order is contained in the NPS Organic Act (16 USC 1 through 4), and Part 245 of the Department of the Interior Manual. In addition, the National Park Service (NPS) must comply with Title 47, section 305 of the U.S. Code (47 USC 305), which provides that Government stations "shall use such frequencies as shall be assigned to each or to each class by the President . . . and shall conform to such rules and regulations designed to prevent interference with other radio stations and the rights of others as the [Federal Communications] Commission may prescribe."


The Congress, in the Communications Act of 1934, provided for the regulation of interstate and foreign commerce in communication by wire and radio "…so as to make available, so far as possible, to all the people of the United States a rapid, efficient, Nationwide, and world-wide wire and radio communication service, with adequate facilities at reasonable charges, for the purpose of the national defense, for the purpose of promoting safety of life and property through the use of wire and radio communication…," and created the Federal Communications Commission to execute and enforce the provisions of that Act.

Section 305(a) of that Act vested authority in the President to assign frequencies to radio stations or to classes of radio stations belonging to and operated by the United States, including the authority to amend, modify, or revoke such assignments. The function was subsequently transferred within the Executive Branch to the Director of the Office of Telecommunications Policy and most recently to the Secretary of Commerce and the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA). NTIA maintains the radio frequency database for all Federal agencies, including wildlife telemetry and law enforcement frequencies used by the Department of the Interior.

The regulations governing radio frequency management are in the Department of Commerce publication, "Manual of Regulations & Procedures for Federal Radio Frequency Management." Requirements for NPS facilities are to be found in that manual and in the Radio Handbook accompanying Departmental Manual Part 377 (377 DM).

As stated in the DM:

The formulation and enunciation of national telecommunication policies designed to ensure achievement of the national objectives is an essential element of the role of the Federal Government. Telecommunication policies are made by the Congress, by the Court, by the President and the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information with respect to the agencies and establishments of the Federal Government, and by the Federal Communications Commission for the public. Policy is made through treaties to which the United States adheres with the advice and consent of the Senate, through executive agreements, by executive departments and agencies in the discharge of their telecommunication responsibilities, and by custom and precedent. These policies may be separated into three categories: (1) National Telecommunication Policy; (2) Telecommunication Policy applying to the agencies and establishments of the Federal Government; and (3) Federal Communications Commission Telecommunication Policy.

This Director’s Order focuses on the second category, which applies to Federal agencies. Operations of the NPS on wireless devices may, however, be governed by any or all of the foregoing categories.

The Association of Public Safety Communications Officials International (APCO) developed standards for equipment, which were adopted by the Department of the Interior (DOI) in 1996. As of 1998, the Electronics Industries Association and the Telecommunications Industry Association agreed on those standards and adopted them under a new name: EIA/TIA-102 standards. These standards apply to all bureaus under DOI.


A. General

Superintendents should be aware of the basic requirements for spectrum management which are set by the spectrum management community (including DOI and NTIA). These requirements cover such areas as: analysis for the need for communication networks; sharing of radio systems; regulatory compliance; proper equipment acquisition; compliance with DOI systems specifications, and appropriate application of other telecommunications services.

1. Requirements Analysis. To show a need for either initial or additional frequency assignments, superintendents will ensure that a requirements analysis is conducted. This applies whenever radio systems are being designed, purchased, upgraded, or replaced. Where it is determined to be supportive of critical mission requirements or otherwise necessary for the safety of life and property, superintendents may recommend establishment of such facilities. Assistance in conducting a requirements analysis and determining sharing opportunities with other park units, agencies, or jurisdictions can be obtained by contacting the NPS Service-wide Radio Program Coordinator in the Park Facility Management Division.

2. Radio System Sharing. DOI advocates radio system sharing and the use of commercially available radio services whenever practical and cost-effective, in compliance with recommendations from the General Accounting Office. Radio system sharing may present a cost-effective alternative to funding new or upgraded single agency systems, and it conserves frequencies. Guidance for radio system sharing can be found in Information Resources Management Bulletin 1998-002.

3. Regulatory Compliance. Superintendents will work with the NPS Park Facility Management Division to ensure that planning is in compliance with the requirements of the NTIA, the DOI, this Director's Order, the park's authorizing legislation and applicable plans, and other applicable statutes, regulations, and policies.

4. Acquisition. All requests for acquisition of equipment employing wireless technology, except that which will utilize commercially provided services (e.g., cellular or PCS telephones, pagers and the like) must have prior technical approval from the Service-wide Radio Program Coordinator. Whether acquisition is planned for a radio system, a wireless computer network, a telephone system, or other wireless service use, acquisition may not proceed until frequency authorization, frequency support, and compatibility with existing wireless systems can be assured. In most cases, new or modified radio frequency assignments will be required. Examples of devices requiring this oversight are communications radios in the HF, VHF, UHF, and microwave bands (whether voice, data, or telemetry); Differential Global Positioning Systems; audio and video wireless surveillance; and wireless microphones and wireless local/wide area networks. When new requirements are being planned, an estimate of the lead time required to obtain the frequency assignment from the NTIA should be requested during the planning process to ensure adequate time to obtain frequency assurance prior to placing an order for equipment or services.

All law enforcement communications must be made on encrypted NPS channels. Therefore, all purchases of radio systems carrying law enforcement traffic must fully comply with the EIA/TIA-102 standards, including incorporation of its encryption technology. This is required to maximize interoperability with other law enforcement agencies and increase officer safety during operations. See article 6, Commercial Telecommunication Facilities.

5. System Specifications and Waivers. Pursuant to IRM (Information Resources Management) BULLETIN 1998-001, all NPS radio systems are required to transition current analog wideband land mobile systems to EIA/TIA-102 (also known as Project 25 or APCO 25 compliant) digital narrowband technology. The Service-wide Radio Program Coordinator may grant waivers to allow transition to analog narrowband operation, but must provide copies of all such waivers to the DOI’s Telecommunications Systems Division in the Office of Information Resources Management. The acquisition of new wideband land mobile radio equipment is prohibited.

As a matter of record, all portable and mobile radio equipment that is to be used for law enforcement operations, and all infrastructure equipment, must be EIA/TIA-102 digital capable (IRM Bulletin 1998-001). Exceptions to this policy require a waiver granted by the Service-wide Radio Program Coordinator (the Bureau Radio Liaison), as permitted by the IRM Bulletin. The equipment must meet all NTIA provisions for technical merit, and a radio frequency assignment covering the acquisition must either be on file or be assured.

Approval of the equipment on a requisition will be based on a determination that the equipment will not be used in law enforcement work and that there is no intent to use it in a shared-resource environment. Should that determination be in error, the Service-wide Radio Program Coordinator should be notified immediately. The Service-wide Radio Program Coordinator (or the designated agent) is the only one who may grant waivers from the digital requirement. All waivers granted for non-digital technology must be forwarded to the Departmental Telecommunications Systems Division in accordance with IRM Bulletin 98-001.

6. Commercial Telecommunication Facilities. The principal method of communicating by wireless in National Park Service units will be by utilizing units of the Service’s private land mobile radio systems. The development, maintenance, and utilization of these private radio systems is essential to ensure that in critical, life safety situations, the NPS unit will have unfettered access to reliable, secure radio communications designed specifically to meet the essential geographic service area requirements of the NPS. In park operations, the use of commercial services will not be utilized except as may be required to supplement the Service’s systems; the private land mobile radio systems of the Service shall be utilized to support essential law enforcement, public safety and management functions.

Use of commercially available services (i.e.; cellular service, PCS, etc.) is encouraged as an adjunct to park radio communications service for non-mission critical activities. National Park Service personnel should be aware that with commercial services there are no provisions for priority access for any government entity regardless of the level of government (local, state or Federal) or the nature of the emergency. Commercial service providers offer these services on a first-come, first-serve basis to all of their subscribers.

B. Processing Radio Frequency Assignment Applications

1. Each Regional Director will designate a Regional Radio Coordinator (RRC), who will coordinate or generate, and review every application for radio frequency assignments. Applications must then be submitted to the Service-wide Radio Program Coordinator in electronic format, conforming to DOI format and technical standards. Each application package must be either a complete package or an update to a previously submitted package, and include map data, a schematic diagram, and the "card format" application. More information is available from the RRC.

2. The Service-wide Radio Program Coordinator will review the application to determine compliance with all technical parameters imposed by DOI and the NTIA and will work with the park and RRC to prepare the package for submittal to DOI. When completed, the park and the RRC will normally be notified of the transmittal of the request to DOI.

C. Issuance of a Radio Frequency Assignment

When the authority has been granted by the NTIA to operate on a frequency, a radio frequency assignment will be issued to the NPS through DOI. Full technical compliance with the parameters of the authorization is required. The Service-wide Radio Program Coordinator will forward the assignment to the superintendent, spelling out the most salient features/limitations of the authorization and stipulating additional terms and conditions relating to the assignment, if any.

D. Frequency Security

Public release of radio frequencies assigned and maintained for tactical and operational law enforcement activities could cause serious harm to the Department’s law enforcement operations. The frequency information is specifically exempted from release under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The exemption is covered under 5 USC 552 as amended by Public Law 104-231, 110 Stat. 3047-3054.

All FOIA requests for radio frequencies used in law enforcement operations should be directed to the Senior Telecommunications Specialist, Telecommunications Systems Division, Office of Information Resources Management, Office of the Secretary. FOIA requests for wildlife telemetry must be carefully considered and coordinated to ensure protection of those operations. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service coordinates the data base for wildlife telemetry frequencies and the Senior Telecommunications Specialist in their National Communications Center in Denver should be contacted before responding to FOIA requests.

V. Additional References/Information

For guidance on the siting of commercial telecommunications towers, see Director’s Order #53: Special Park Uses. For more information, contact the NPS Service-wide Radio Program Coordinator. Further information relating to the management of NPS wireless telecommunications facilities may be found in Reference Manual 15.

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