Any law enforcement officer can tell you how critical it is to have reliable communications, both in the field between officers, as well as with dispatch and stations or precincts. However, Border Patrol agents work in an environment that isn’t always conducive to good communication systems, and often can be downright hostile.
Agents also don’t just have to worry about communicating within their own agency. The nature of drug and illegal immigrant interdiction also places on them the unique requirement of having to communicate with foreign agencies across international boundaries.
Despite the spotlight placed on this need for interoperability after 9/11, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) components – especially Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – have met many challenges post-9/11 in trying to upgrade their communications networks and demonstrate reliable effectiveness.
According to the March 2015 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, Additional Efforts Needed to Address Persistent Challenges in Achieving Radio Interoperability, both CBP and ICE initiated modernization programs in 2008 that were expected to improve the effectiveness of these systems. GAO was then brought in to assess these initiatives.
Along the Southwest border, both CBP and ICE primarily use land mobile radios and rely on CBP’s radio network, controlled by the National Law Enforcement Coordination Center in Orlando, Fla. According to the GAO report:
Since 1989, federal agencies have collaborated with public safety associations to establish common technical standards, called Project 25 (P25), for radio systems and devices. The purpose of these technical standards is to support interoperability among different radio systems, and to enable seamless communication across federal, state, and local agencies and jurisdictions. The P25 suite of standards is intended to promote interoperability by making radio systems and devices compatible regardless of the manufacturer.
Read the complete report in the April 2016 issue of Homeland Security Today.