Input: Heavy spending ahead for public safety interoperability

State and local governments will spend an estimated $5.5 billion on interoperable public safety communications between 2007 and 2012, including $3.4 billion from federal sources, according to a new report from Input Inc.

The new $1 billion Public Safety Interoperable Communications grant program established by Congress will jumpstart the new spending, the Reston, Va.-based market research group said. The Homeland Security Department and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration will distribute the funds this year to state and local agencies.

In addition, there will be investments under the Strategic Technology Reserve program, set up by Congress as part of the 9/11 Commission bill. It requires states to have an interim interoperable solution in place while they develop long-term interoperability strategies.

But those two programs will achieve only limited gains this year because of a lack of strategies, leadership and common technical standards enabling equipment from different manufacturers to work together, said Tim Brown, Input's homeland security analyst.

The so-called Project 25 suite of standards being developed by industry for public safety digital equipment and systems is not due to be completed until the end of 2008 at the earliest, which may be too late for this round of funding, Brown said.

"Lacking clear guidelines for standardization, states and localities will purchase a wide variety of systems and equipment," Brown said. "We will see investments in basic radios and repeaters, millions of dollars spent on gateways and shared channels and hundreds of millions spent on completely new, statewide interoperable networks."

As a result, it is likely that interoperability investments will continue through much of the next decade, Brown said.

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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