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The National Communications System (NCS), an entity within the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Office of Cybersecurity and Communications, had responsibility for the communications infrastructure that carries data and applications and carried out its duty through its coordination center, NCC, and its operations center, NCC Watch.

NCS was responsible for ensuring that Department of Homeland Security federal government is available under all conditions — ranging from normal situations to national emergencies and international crises. The system did this through several activities, including a program that gives calling priority to federal executives, first responders, and other key officials in times of emergency. NCS was established by presidential direction[1] in August 1963 in response to voice communication failures associated with the Cuban Missile Crisis. Its role was further clarified through an executive order[2] issued in April 1984 that established the Secretary of Defense as the executive agent for NCS. In 2003, it was transferred to the responsibility of the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.[3]

NCS was composed of members from 24 federal departments and agencies. Although it originally focused on "traditional" voice services via common carriers, NCS later took a larger role in Internet-related issues due to the convergence of voice and data networks. For example, it helped to manage issues related to disruptions of the Internet backbone (e.g., high-capacity data routes).

NCS was dissolved on July 6, 2012, by Executive Order 13618.


  1. National Security Action Memorandum 252: Establishment of the National Communications System (July 11, 1963) (full-text).
  2. Executive Order 12472, §1.e (Apr. 3, 1984).
  3. Executive Order 12386 (Mar. 1, 2003).