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Mobile ad hoc networks will form a critical part of the first-responder communications infrastructure. Empirical data shows how network-aware, autonomous, mobile agents can manage information services on live manet environments. A multidisciplinary team in Drexel University’s College of Engineering has been working with local law enforcement and transportation officials to identify problems in enabling police, fire, security, and other public protectors to effectively communicate and collaborate in first-response situations. Development of the Philadelphia Area Urban Wireless Network Testbed (PA-UWNT) is part of this effort. The PA-UWNT is a mobile ad hoc network (manet) comprising mobile computers (PDAs, tablets, and laptops) and Web service-based applications. Our experience in the PA-UWNT project indicates that constructing such systems will require new research developments in computer networking, agent and service-based computing, and security that integrate each of these disciplines at several fundamental levels. In this paper, we outline part of this approach through experiments demonstrating the utility of integrating the network and agent layers and enabling agents to reason about the current operating context. We posit that autonomous agents that can reason about the network’s slate and services offer an effective means of meeting the manet environment’s challenges.