Many unnoticed, yet significant cogs within the machine of government exist. One of those cogs is the US Secret Service (Secret Service), assigned to protect a variety of important government personnel’s lives, including the President. Secret Service operates in the background and must execute their job with perfection and without hindrance. But a recent report by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General (DHS OIG) revealed a major challenge to Secret Service’s mission: an aging radio communications system.
Radio systems are critical to the day-to-day protective operations of Secret Service, making 100 percent operational success imperative. However, DHS OIG’s testing revealed “inherent radio limitations” and “unclear transmissions,” which could lead to a communications failure in an emergency. The exact age of the current radio infrastructure was redacted from the report.
“If Secret Service continues to use these outdated radio communications systems, it may negatively impact their protective operations,” the DHS OIG report stated.
Of 186 tests conducted by Secret Service’s Joint Operations Center, 180 were successful, rendering a three percent rate of failure. While a failurerate of 3 percent may be considered negligible by some, anything less that 100 percent functionality of communication systems that serve as a means protection of the public servants that the Federal government deems most essential should not be accepted.
“In the case of radio communications, a single missed transmission or delay could result in a national incident,” the report stated. “Secret Service must ensure that its communications programs work effectively.”
Additionally, DHS OIG reviewed Secret Service’s Radio Trouble Log, documenting technical issues that interrupted communications during an 11-month period; more than 100 instances of technical issues were detailed.
DHS OIG determined that the Secret Service needs to upgrade the radio systems around the White House complex, the Vice President’s residence, and Foreign Diplomatic Embassies.
The auditors recommended that Secret Service invest $54.2 million in upgrading radio systems by fiscal year 2019.
DHS OIG also made the following recommendations:
We recommend that the Director of Secret Service ensure that the Information Resources Management Division receives the resources needed to upgrade radios and related infrastructure.
We recommend that the Director of Secret Service require the Information Resources Management Division develop a strategy and timeline to continuously upgrade radio communication systems.
“Secret Service’s top priority, protecting the President and other high-ranking national officials, allows no room for error and this means its technology cannot fail,” the report concluded.