THE FED FILES -
Welcome to The Fed Files blog! This blog was originally in support of the Fed Files column in Monitoring Times magazine. Although the Fed Files, as well as Monitoring Times, will end with the December 2013 issue, this blog will continue to support the new federal monitoring column in The Spectrum Monitor magazine. If you would like to make a comment, pass along a tip or frequency you can send it to my email address, chrisparris @ thefedfiles.com
The report talks about various problems that have been noted with keeping US Secret Service communications and computer network systems up to date. Although there are several passages and items that are redacted in this copy of the report, there are some interesting items of note. For instance, OIG audits found that much of the Secret Service radio communications inventory is in need of replacement and soon. While radio operations are generally good, there have been instances of radio failures that could have led to serious problems. The report noted that Secret Service logs indicate about a 3% failure rate of radio transmissions. Much of the radio equipment is near or past it’s intended end-of-life and should be replaced. The report indicates that there are plans for radio system equipment to be replaced through 2019.
An item that was redacted was mention of something that allows “voice communications within the Secret Service and for interoperability with law enforcement partners.” This could possibly be a radio system “bridge” that can link disparate radio systems and allows seamless communications without modifying the agency radios. It also might also refer to encryption keys or key management systems.
Over the past few weeks I've been seeing reports on the Radio Reference forums of some changes occuring in the UHF trunked systems used by the various military bases and facilites in the San Antonio, Texas area. These facilities include Fort Sam Houston, Kelly, Randolph and Lackland Air Force Base and Camp Bullis, northwest of San Antonio.
Previously, the various military facilities had been sharing a Motorola Type II trunking system. The various bases are now migrating towards a new APCO P-25 Phase II digital system. The new system is showing a System ID of 3D6 and is showing it is capable of Phase II TDMA operation, but I've not confirmed that Phase II operation is actually taking place. A number of new military UHF trunked systems are advertising that they are TDMA capable, but the users are not necessarily using that feature yet.
I've been working in New York City this week and noted hearing some Over-The-Air-Rekeying (OTAR) data on the DEA frequencies. I heard it on both 418.6250 and 418.9500 MHz repeaters, but no other traffic has been heard on those two frequencies, encrypted or not.
I just saw a posting that indicates the TSA at Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) is now using a repeater on 172.9000 MHz, N046. Not an unusual frequency for the TSA repeater to use, but definitely a new NAC for them.
After the announcement by Uniden that they would be offering an update to listen to DMR digital on the 436/536 line of scanners, the Whistler Group announced they, too, would be offering some new models that will receive DMR digital modes, and had NXDN digital soon to me available.
In addition to the new scanner models, Whistler announced a forthcoming update to their current digital scanner line that would include DMR. The new model scanners, called the TRX-1 and TRX-2, will probably ship later this summer.
While there is some federal use of DMR radios, the format has come into massive use by business, security and some public safety users. Until now, you were locked out of monitoring these users, or purchasing an actual DMR radio and having it programmed, or using a SDR stick receiver and computer software.
A necessary tool for any serious federal scanner listener is the National Interoperability Field Operations Guide, or NIFOG. The latest version is 1.6.1 and is available now. There are several sources for downloading this document. Here are a few: