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The Department of Homeland Security’s radio mess

The US Office of Inspector General has put out a report that I’ll bet has the Department of Homeland Security cringing. It chronicles the epic fail of a scheme to build an interoperable radio communications system for the DHS and its network of 22 sub-federal agencies. The target was a common channel usable by the security agency’s  approximately 123,000 field users.


DHS did not provide effective oversight to ensure that its components achieved Department-wide interoperable radio communications. It did not establish an effective governing structure that had the authority and responsibility to oversee its goal of achieving Department-wide interoperability. Without a governing structure, DHS had limited interoperability policies and procedures, and component personnel did not have interoperable radio communications. As a result, only 1 of 479 radio users tested could access and communicate using the specified common channel. Further, of the 382 radios tested, only 20 percent (78) contained all the correct program settings for the common channel. Until DHS develops an effective governing structure and makes a concerted effort to attain Department-wide interoperability, overall progress will remain limited.

Reason why DHS staff didn’t use the channel? 72 percent did not know about it and 18 percent were aware of the service but “could not find it in their radios.”

But cheer up, the project only cost $430 million. The rest of the audit here. Hat tip: Benton Foundation.

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