The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) isn’t providing specific requirements in its grant guidance to grantees for acquiring interoperable emergency communications equipment, according to a new DHS Inspector General (IG) audit report.
Initiated at Congress’ request, the audit followed media reports that questioned Motorola’s business tactics in the public safety communications equipment market.
“Without clear grant guidance requiring interoperability, grantees could use DHS grant funds to purchase non-interoperable equipment, preventing first responders from communicating effectively during an emergency,” the IG report stated.
The IG’s findings are important given that between Fiscal Years 2012 and 2014, $5.16 billion in DHS grant funding was eligible for the purchase of interoperable communications equipment.
The IG’s report said, “After 9/11, congressional concerns led to legislation intended to improve the interoperability of emergency communications equipment,” the audit report said, noting that, “As recently as January 2015, the significance of interoperable communications equipment was demonstrated when radios failed to operate during an emergency incident in the Washington, DC Metro system.”
IG John Roth said, “Ensuring interoperable communications is a vital aspect of the homeland security mission. I am pleased that the department has agreed with our recommendations to improve its grant guidance, which should ensure that taxpayer funds are used to purchase equipment that will actually work in an emergency.”
The new audit report follows prior IG audits that found DHS’ own components have not achieved radio interoperability.