August is often described as a quiet time here in Washington. That hasn’t been the case at NTIA.
Just last week, we announced almost $200 million in grants to help Tribal entities in Alaska and New Mexico connect to reliable, affordable high-speed internet service, with plenty more to come in the next few weeks. We transferred $1 billion in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds into our existing Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program so that we can reward more quality applications for projects more quickly. We reached an agreement with the Bureau of Indian Affairs to streamline permitting for high-speed internet projects on Tribal lands so that we can build faster while respecting land rights and traditions. And as Vice President Harris announced last Thursday, we intend to announce at least $500 million in Tribal high-speed internet grants before the month is out.
Big weeks like this are only possible with an experienced and dedicated team with strong leadership. Throughout this summer we’ve brought in top-tier talent to lead our key offices. And it starts with our front office.
Today we’re thrilled to announce that Scott Blake Harris has joined the Office of the Assistant Secretary as Senior Spectrum Advisor. Scott will be the lead emissary on spectrum coordination and will drive our National Spectrum Strategy efforts. His storied legal career spans senior positions in industry, private law firms, and government, including stints at the Department of Commerce, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Department of Energy. He is a most welcome addition as we usher in a new era of spectrum coordination across various agencies and work to foster a more diverse and resilient supply chain for 5G equipment.
Earlier this summer we were fortunate to have Grace Abuhamad transition from Senior Advisor to the role of Acting Chief of Staff. Grace brings an unusual combination of subject matter expertise on tech policy, private sector management experience, and a strong understanding of our organization from her previous service at NTIA.
Parul Desai joined us in June to lead our Office of Congressional Affairs. Parul brings a wealth of tech and telecom policy experience, having served for more than seven years at the FCC and as a detailee to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
In May we welcomed Charlie Meisch as Director of NTIA’s Office of Public Affairs, where he will lead the communications efforts for the agency. Charlie brings 25 years of experience in tech and telecom policy communications to NTIA, having served in non-profit organizations, leading public affairs firms, and senior roles at the FCC.
Parul and Charlie round out the leadership for NTIA’s external affairs team, which also includes the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and the Office of Public Engagement, led by Herb Tyson and Mark Colón, respectively. We’ve also added capacity to the external affairs efforts, bringing on Mara Candelaria Reardon as Deputy Director of Public Engagement and Robert Williams as Deputy Director of Intergovernmental Affairs. The OPA team also added Virginia Bring, a Commerce Department veteran who most recently served in the Census Bureau, as Press Secretary in July.
These additions are strengthening our team as we enter a crucial Fall season. With key deadlines in our Internet for All program approaching, critical international meetings upcoming next month, our 5G Challenge set to complete the final stage of its first year, and major policy initiatives moving forward throughout the end of the year, we’ll be counting on this team to lead the way. I have every confidence that they will.