DoJ secure radio network project about to fail

For the last decade, the US Department of Justice has been working on a secure, interoperable radio network.

According to Info Week, the project has cost taxpayers more than $356 million but may be about to fail because of inadequate funding, frequent revisions to the DoJ’s plans, and poor coordination.

Besides the waste of money, if the Integrated Wireless Network (IWS) does fail, it could leave the agency with obsolete radio equipment that doesn’t communicate well with other radio systems.

The programme was started after the 9/11 Commission wanted interoperable law enforcement communications. It was supposed to provide wireless communications to more than 81,000 FBI agents nationwide in the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of the Treasury.

General Dynamics told the DoJ that it could save agency costs in the long run by reducing the number of radio towers by a half.

But in 2007, the inspector general’s report found that, despite six years of work, little progress had been made. Again, that report highlighted funding difficulties, conflicting priorities, miscommunication, and a mangled decision-making process. Cash for the project was being spent propping up the legacy systems.

At that time the DoJ “refined its deployment strategy” to make the program more cost-effective, to improve project management, to increase oversight of the project, and to tweak the program’s priorities.

Then, later that year, the DoJ raised concerns about funding and indicated that the agency “continued to have concerns about the program’s implementation.” In short, it kept starving it of money.