Telecom industry group disputes GAO interoperability report

A telecommunications industry group today sharply disputed the findings of a recent Government Accountability Office report regarding standards for interoperable radio communications for first responders.

The April 2 GAO report said the Project 25 suite of standards developed by the industry appears to be providing only marginal benefits to emergency responders and has not been proven to deliver interoperability. Grant Seiffert, president of the Telecommunications Industry Association, challenged that finding today in letters to two congressional subcommittee chairmen.

"While TIA understands the need for the GAO to conduct performance management reports, it is extremely concerned that this report misleads the Congress and others by not adequately evaluating and reporting the appropriate data," Grant Seiffert wrote in a letter to Reps. William Clay, D-Mo., and Dennis J. Kucinich, D-Ohio, subcommittee chairs on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

The GAO report concluded that ambiguities in the standards have led to incompatibilities among products made by different vendors. Without compliance testing, which GAO found has not been done, there's no way to know if the products are interoperable, according to the report.

However, the TIA, which published the Project 25 standards, insists that products meeting the standards are compatible and must meet mandatory standard operating requirements. If various products are incompatible in the field it is probably because public safety users have been asking for additional, proprietary features to add to their Project 25-compliant devices, Seiffert suggested in the letter.

GAO also criticized Project 25 for a lack of recent additional standards recently. Seiffert objected to that charge as well, writing that 114 Project 25 standards and documents were published between 1993 and 2005. The Project 25 community has been collaborating with the National Institute of Standards and Technology to develop compliance testing, he added.

GAO did not consult the TIA prior to the release of the report, he noted.

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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