Sunday, December 14, 2008

New GAO Report on IWN

The latest GOA report on the current progress of the federal Integrated Wireless Network (IWN) has been released, and you can find a copy here:

In a nutshell, the latest report says that the cooperation between the Justice Department, Treasury and Homeland Security has collapsed. The original vision of a shared, nationwide radio communications network for federal agencies has turned out to be not exactly what everyone wants and probably can't be deployed as hoped.

A few more key points:

The original pilot project in the Pacific Northwest continues to operate and is growing, but users still report that some of their requirements have not been met. These agencies continue to utilize their legacy radio systems outside of the IWN.

The pilot project appears to be too costly to be expanded nationwide and still fulfill the needs of Justice, Treasury and DHS. While the Treasury Department has been signed on as a participant of the project, they appear mostly as observers and seem to be waiting to see what happens, while Justice and DHS have moved off on their own.

The Justice Department has begun upgrading it's land mobile communications system on it's own, outside of the IWN project. They are calling it the Law Enforcement Wireless Communications Solution. This appears to include recent upgrades to the FBI, US Marshals and other radio systems that listeners have reported over the last year or so. I cover some of this activity in the January issue of Monitoring Times.

Customs and Border Protection has been upgrading their own radio network since 2005. Listeners along both the Northern and Southern US have reported these changes to APCO P-25 over the last two years or so.

Immigrations and Customs Enforcement has also been upgrading their radio communications network, referred to as the Tactical Communications Modernization Project. This project is not geared towards building their own communications network. Instead, ICE is looking to partner up with other federal agencies and utilized existing infrastructure to accomplish what they need. Again, this is what we have been hearing over the last few years on the radios.

The GAO report asks Congress to try and get these agencies working together again. To pursue their individual projects risks a lot of wasted time and money by duplication, according to the GAO audit.

Interesting to see what becomes of the IWN project in the coming months.