A review conducted by the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security found that two and a half years after a scathing report on the state of intra-agency communications in the event of an emergency, "DHS components’ inability to communicate with each other persists." The department's corrective actions and plans are still not finalized, and DHS could not even provide a timetable for finalization of the plans, much less implementation of corrective steps.
The inspector general found in 2012 that "only 1 of 479 radio users tested could access and communicate using the specified common channel. Further, of the 382 radios tested, only 20 percent (78) contained all the correct program settings for the common channel." The verification review just completed does not show that DHS is any closer to implementing a plan to ensure that its "$430 million worth of radios" can be properly utilized in an emergency situation such as a terrorist attack.
Inspector General John Roth commented, "We are disappointed to see the lack of progress in this area. DHS leadership must prioritize effective interoperable communications, a fundamental aspect of the homeland security mission."
The inspector general's letter reads as follows in its entirety:
Almost 15 Years after the September 11th Terrorist Attacks, DHS Still Has Not Achieved Interoperable Communications
In November 2012, the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (DHS OIG) published an audit, DHS’ Oversight of Interoperable Communications (OIG-13-06), concluding that DHS components could not talk to each other in the event of a terrorist event or other emergency. The DHS OIG has just completed a verification review and concluded that, two and a half years later, DHS components’ inability to communicate with each other persists.
In its November 2012 report, the Inspector General concluded that less than one fourth of one percent of DHS radio users tested could access and use the specified common channel to communicate. Moreover, only 20% of those tested contained the correct program settings for the common channel. At the time, the OIG made two recommendations to the Department to improve interoperable communications so that the $430 million worth of radios purchased could be used effectively.
As a result of its recent verification review, Corrective Actions Still Needed to Achieve Interoperable Communications (OIG-15-97-VR), the Inspector General concluded that corrective actions, including a draft communications interoperability plan and draft management directives to standardize Department-wide radio activities, have not been finalized.
Moreover, DHS was unable to provide a timetable for finalizing and disseminating these documents throughout the Department. “We are disappointed to see the lack of progress in this area. DHS leadership must prioritize effective interoperable communications, a fundamental aspect of the homeland security mission,” said Inspector General John Roth.
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