Audit: Law enforcement wireless network in peril

The plan to build a $5 billion nationwide wireless communications network for 81,000 federal agents runs a high risk of failure, according to a new audit from the Justice Department Inspector General's Office.

The Integrated Wireless Network, which has been in development since 2004 by the departments of Homeland Security, Justice and Treasury, is more than a year behind schedule. The network will link FBI, federal marshals, customs and border control agents and other law enforcement agencies when completed.

But according to the new audit, the project may fail because of uncertain funding, disparate departmental funding mechanisms that allow the departments to pursue separate wireless communications solutions apart from the network, a fractured partnership between the departments and lack of an effective governing structure for the project.

"Unless these issues are addressed, a joint wireless communication system may not be developed and the resulting separate agency communications systems may not be adequate in the event of another terrorist attack or natural disaster that requires a coordinated emergency response," the IG report said.

Last year the government selected two teams, led by General Dynamics Corp. and Lockheed Martin Corp., to compete for the network contract.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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