A key problem with the response to 9/11 was the inability of first responders from different jurisdictions to communicate with each other. As GovExcec.com puts it, "Firefighters could not communicate during the tragedy and many died in the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings. Since then, lawmakers and federal officials have been working to develop technology, reserve airwaves for public-safety officials and establish standards for equipment and procedures."
Congress has so far not taken the need for such a system seriously, as the Senate allocated only $15 million of the $30 billon Homeland Security spending bill for an interoperable first responder system. The House backed $41.5 million, although President Bush requested only $20.5 million.
When Congress meets in conference when they return from recess, this gap is one of many issues they'll have to address. In cutting $5 million from the request, Senate appropriators noted, "Lack of true interoperability within public-safety communications remains a critical stumbling block to effective response in multi-discipline, multi-jurisdictional emergencies."
Even with adequate funding, it's a huge project. A DHS official estimated it will take 15 to 20 years to connect all 60,000 first responders across the country.