DHS’s $1 Billion Radio System Doesn’t Work
Policy + Politics

DHS’s $1 Billion Radio System Doesn’t Work

REUTERS/Hyungwon Kang

“Can you hear me now?”   

Border patrol agents say the Department of Homeland Security’s new $1 billion updated radio system makes it even more difficult than before to communicate with each other while patrolling the Southwestern border.

The agents’ concerns were documented in a new report from the Government Accountability Office released Thursday, including situations where they said that issues with the radio system jeopardized their safety. 

Related: The Costly, Dysfunctional Lack of Oversight at DHS 

The report described situations where agents were pursuing suspects and weren’t able to request back up since the radio systems weren’t communicating sufficiently.

The radio system was built for agents from Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Tucson, Rio Grande Valley, El Paso and San Diego. Though most of its equipment is updated, there are still glitches in the technology that have caused serious communication problems that agents have had to work around, the report said. 

On top of that, the GAO said the DHS never developed a way to monitor whether the system works as intended, so it can’t technically determine whether the billion-dollar investment was actually worth the money. 

The GAO said DHS "could not make a definitive determination on operational suitability, and since CBP agents and officers are currently using radio systems on a daily basis, a performance monitoring plan would help CBP identify issues experienced by current CBP users and actions that could address those identified issues."

Related: DHS Whistleblowers Save $100 Million a Year 

The GAO blamed DHS for not verifying that the system is works as intended and explaining how it’s being managed.

“Without such information, the report said, "ICE does not have the ability to determine whether its technology investments are meeting user needs and contributing to achieving the agency's mission."

GAO recommended that DHS develop a way to monitor the system’s effectiveness. The department concurred with the auditors’ recommendations and said it is already working on a solution.

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