This morning at a state governmental office complex in Tallahassee, a panel including representatives from the state’s law enforcement agencies recommended that that the Florida Department of Management Services open up its critical radio services contract to a competitive bidding process.
States across the nation, including Florida, are seeking to upgrade their statewide law enforcement radio systems with modern technology that would allow thousands of state law enforcement officers, firefighters and first responders to communicate seamlessly during emergencies.
The Joint Task Force on Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System heard public testimony from a former state trooper and vendors eager to create a next-generation radio system that may eventually cost more than a billion dollars to build and operate.
In January, the task force released a business case that put the cost of a system upgrade near $1 billion over a 19-year period. However, Task Force Chairman Mark Perez equated the business case’s high estimate to the most expensive model of a car with all the bells and whistles.
According to Perez, the JTF asked that the business case include every feature and function, but a competitive procurement issued by the state would provide the opportunity to determine what features and functions were essential to meet the state’s needs and ask vendors to compete for the state business. The rest of the JTF board concurred with the chair’s remarks.
Perez was clear about his department’s opinion about the future direction of the radio system, employing a metaphor of a car that at one time was top-of-the-line brand new, but had depreciated as time goes on and technology advances.
The procurement comes as the state looks to upgrade its current radio network to allow for interoperability — the ability to connect officers from multiple juridictions on a common band — and for the use of encrypted signals, which would prevent interlopers from eavesdropping on tactically sensitive operations, such as hostage situations or raids.
The proposed procurement process, however, may hinge on an appropriation from the Legislature to provide the Department of Management Services with the staff and expertise to research and develop the technical specifications, a step that hinges on the House and Senate, which both currently have funding for the process in their respective budgets.