Wireless network for law enforcement a victim of federal infighting

Cost of Integrated Wireless Network expected to explode, as Justice, DHS can't get on the same page.

$195 million later, the US government's long-promised wireless radio network for law enforcement is at "high risk of failure," the Justice Department's inspector general reported yesterday, according to the Washington Post.

At fault, according to Inspector General Glenn A. Fine: delays, funding shortfalls and infighting among Justice, Homeland Security and Treasury.

For example, Justice spend most of the $772 million it received not to invest in the new network but to jerry-rig its existing antiquated systesm.

The federal partnership is "fractured in its approach and disjointed in its goals," Fine reported. "The system that results from this partnership likely will not be the seamless, interoperable system that was originally envisioned and . . . may not be adequate in the event of another terrorist attack or national disaster."

Yet another case of wasted money and failed leadership, Congressional Democrats said.

"This IG report shows an outrageous absence of effective leadership that has apparently put this critical homeland security communications project in grave danger of failure," said Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), chairman of the Senate's homeland security panel.

The idea of the Integrated Wireless Network is to establish a secure wireless network to carry voice, data and video for federal officers from the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Treasury Department, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and others. It was originally estimated to cost $5 billion, but some say the cost could balloon to six times that amount.

Infighting is a huge part of the reason.

According to Fine, Justice officials said their Department of Homeland Security colleagues "never participated at the level DOJ expected." Justice said the effort has been repeatedly set back by high turnover at the four-year-old Homeland Security department.

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