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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

FBI told to restart troubled $200M radio modernization project

The FBI just can’t seem to get it right when it comes to modernizing its radio system for its agents.

It tried awarding a sole-source, $500 million contract to Motorola, but protests from other radio makers including Harris Corp. caused the FBI to back away from that plan.

It issued a solicitation under the Homeland Security Department’s Tactical Communications contract, known as TACOM. Harris filed a pre-award protest and now the Government Accountability Office has agreed with Harris. The new contract is expected to be worth $200 million.

GAO is recommending that the FBI cancel the solicitation and consider alternatives to meeting its requirements.

Harris’ main complaint was the solicitation was designed to look like a single contract, but it was actually a series of task order under TACOM. Many of the requirements also were outside the scope of the contract. The design of the solicitation would deny Harris or others the opportunity to compete for later task orders. The solicitation also was called for Motorola products which other competitors are restricted from bidding.

GAO agreed with all of those points in sustaining Harris’ protest and recommending that the FBI rethink the solicitation.

So the FBI is back at square one on the project. They’ve been trying to modernize their radio systems since at least late 2013 when they first posted notice that they wanted to award Motorola a sole source contract. 

The dispute is just another of a series of battles between Harris and Motorola in the land mobile radio arena.

The two rivals are often locked in battles to supply the land mobile radios to defense and civilian customers.

Last year, they battled for an Army contract to supply the radios for the Detroit arsenal. First, Harris won and Motorola protested and won a GAO decision in its favor. The Army then awarded the contract to Motorola and Harris protested. But that time, GAO denied the protest.

I don’t know how big the market is for land mobile radios, but these tense battles are to expected when you have just a handful of competitors and opportunities as large as the FBI’s project are few and far between.

As an outsider, it looks like a battle between Ford and Chevy or Duke and UNC. Either one or the other wins, but rarely both.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Oct 08, 2015 at 9:22 AM


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