GAO raps Project 25 interoperability grants

Published 10 April 2007

Federal government has spent $2.15 billion on expensive but uncompatible radios; a lack of strategic vision

This is a little irritating. Despite the fact that DHS has since 2003 provided $2.15 billion in state and local grants to encourage interoperability — an initiative known as Project 25 — the Government Accountability Office has found that the entire project is marred by strategic failure. The problem is that, while the federal government has been somewhat succesful in encouraging the purchase of Project 25-compliant emergency radios, “from 1993 through 2005, no additional standards were completed that could be used to develop Project 25 products.” Standards were eventually defined over the past few years. “However, ambiguities in the published standards have led to incompatibilities among products made by different vendors, and no compliance testing has been conducted to determine if these products are interoperable.”

The result, GAO notes, is that a lot of federal dollars are going to help cities buy expensive radios that are still uninteroperable. “Until DHS modifies its grant guidance to provide more flexibility in purchasing communications equipment, states and localities are likely to continue to purchase expensive equipment that provides them with minimal additional benefits.”