Progress Report on Development of the Integrated Wireless Network in the Department of Justice

Audit Report 07-25
March 2007
Office of the Inspector General

Executive Summary

To enhance the ability of federal law enforcement agencies to communicate with each other, the Departments of Justice (DOJ), Homeland Security (DHS), and Treasury agreed in 2004 to jointly develop the Integrated Wireless Network (IWN), a secure wireless, nationwide communications network. As initially envisioned, IWN would support over 81,000 federal agents in 50 states and the U.S. territories when fully implemented. Estimated to cost over $5 billion through 2021, IWN would address federal law enforcement requirements to communicate across agencies, allow interoperability with state and local law enforcement partners, and meet mandates to use federal radio frequency spectrum more efficiently.

DOJ law enforcement components expect IWN to replace or upgrade current legacy land mobile radio systems. IWN will likely be a combination of land mobile radio, cellular telephones, and walkie talkie devices. IWN is planned to provide reliable, secure, nationwide wireless communications capabilities and land mobile radio functionality. IWN is also intended to enhance and simplify communications interoperability with other federal and non-federal wireless users through increased coverage and capabilities. Additionally, IWN is expected to reduce the capital and operational costs of nationwide wireless communications in support of federal law enforcement officers through economies of scale.

The following table details the number of potential IWN users in the DOJ, Treasury, and DHS. DHS currently is the largest potential federal user of IWN, with 64 percent of potential users.


Agency/Component Number of
Total Users by
of Total Users
Homeland Security

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service



U.S. Customs and Border Protection



Federal Emergency Management Administration



Federal Law Enforcement Training Center



Federal Protective Service



Immigration and Customs Enforcement



Transportation Security Administration



U.S. Secret Service



Homeland Security Total




Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives



Federal Bureau of Investigation



Federal Bureau of Prisons



Drug Enforcement Administration



Office of the Inspector General



U.S. Marshals Service



Justice Total




Bureau of Engraving and Printing



Internal Revenue Service



Internal Revenue Service Facilities



Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration



U.S. Mint



Treasury Total



Total Users



Source:  Justice Management Division, Wireless Management Office, IWN Cost Model

Office of the Inspector General (OIG) Audit

The OIG performed this audit to assess the status of the development and implementation of the IWN project. The specific objectives of the audit were to:

To asses the implementation of IWN, we examined documents provided to us by DOJ officials, including the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between DOJ, DHS, and Treasury; the fiscal year (FY) 2005 Program Plan; the IWN Strategic Plan for 2003 through 2008; the Program Weekly Status Reviews; and the IWN Executive Status Reports and other pertinent documents.

We conducted fieldwork at the DOJ Wireless Management Office in Fairfax, Virginia, at various DOJ offices including the Justice Management Division (JMD), Procurement Services Staff in Washington, D.C., and at the Seattle/Blaine Pilot Project in the Seattle, Washington area. We interviewed the Chief Information Officers (CIOs) of DOJ, DHS, and Treasury and the Directors of the DOJ and DHS Wireless Management Offices. We also interviewed the DOJ Deputy CIO, Information Sharing; Deputy Directors of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS); and an Assistant Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). In addition, we interviewed the DOJ Spectrum Manager, the DOJ IWN Program Manager, and the DOJ Wireless Management Office Administration Officer.

We assessed the progress of the 3-phase acquisition plan to contract with one or more non-government vendors to build IWN across the country. We reviewed the proposals of the four vendors selected to compete in Phase 2 of the acquisition plan and interviewed DOJ staff who served on the management and technical evaluation teams. We also interviewed the Assistant Director of DOJ’s Procurement Services Staff.

To assess DOJ compliance with NTIA requirements, we interviewed the Chief of the Spectrum Support Division of the Office of Spectrum Management at NTIA. We also examined the Telecommunications Authorization Act of 1992 and the NTIA Narrowband Mandate of 1993. In addition, we obtained documents from NTIA that discussed the process for requesting waivers and the proposed rule of the Frequency Assignment Subcommittee to prohibit waivers for wideband operations that interfere with narrowband operations. We also reviewed NTIA reports of frequency assignments and waivers for noncompliant frequencies.

In the following sections we provide background to the IWN project before describing our audit findings on the status of IWN.


Spectrum Management

Government, commercial, and public entities use federal frequency assignments and licenses for specific radio frequencies to provide mobile telephone, paging, satellite services, radio, and television broadcasts. The NTIA manages the complex allocation of radio frequency spectrum for all federal users through an application and frequency assignment process.

In an effort to further the efficient and effective use of the available radio frequency spectrum, in 1993 the NTIA mandated that all federal spectrum users cut their frequency usage by one-half. This process, known as “narrowbanding,” requires replacing all wideband land mobile radio network infrastructure and radios with narrowband-compliant technology. Specifically, the NTIA required that the channel bandwidth used by federal agencies be reduced from 25 to 12.5 kilohertz for very high frequency operations by 2005 and by 2008 for ultra high frequency operations.

DOJ Legacy Wireless Communications Systems

DOJ law enforcement officers require many different types of wireless communications devices, such as portable radios and body transmitters to support criminal, counterterrorism, and counterintelligence investigations and other law enforcement operations.1 Typically, DOJ law enforcement operations cannot rely on traditional communications equipment such as landline telephones. Therefore, wireless communications systems are critical to most DOJ law enforcement operations, usually providing an officer’s sole means of connectivity to other agents and supervisors. DOJ law enforcement officers primarily use land mobile radio technology that relies on radio frequency signals for tactical radio communications.2

As part of this review, DOJ components identified 4,163 different land mobile radio communications system sites currently in use within their components. The vast majority of these systems use technology that is over 10 years old. Most of DOJ’s current communications devices function in an analog rather than a digital mode, which means they have limited functionality and diminished voice communications quality.

The following table describes the DOJ law enforcement components’ legacy wireless communications systems and shows the age and functional limitations of those systems. The DEA and the FBI reported the oldest radio systems within DOJ. As detailed below, we found that most DOJ systems: (1) cannot support over-the-air re-keying (OTAR) of encryption codes, which means re-keying must be done manually; (2) do not provide advanced encryption to ensure officer safety; and (3) are no longer supported by the manufacturer, which means spare parts are difficult to find, maintenance is essentially a customized service, and the failure rate of this equipment has become a reliability issue.3


Component Number of System Sites4 Average Age of Systems (Years) Percent of Systems Not Narrowband Compliant Systems Frequency Type Percent of Systems Lacking OTAR Capability Percent of Systems Lacking AES5 Percent of Systems Obsolete6

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives7




Very High Frequency




Drug Enforcement Administration




Ultra High Frequency




Federal Bureau of Investigation




Very High Frequency




U.S. Marshals Service8

Not Applicable

Not Applicable

Not Applicable

Not Applicable

Not Applicable

Not Applicable

Not Applicable









Source: Information derived from DOJ components

Because the DEA’s radio systems operate on the ultra high frequency band, which is not compatible with the very high frequency band, interoperability between DEA radio systems and those of the ATF, FBI, and USMS is more difficult, although not impossible to achieve.9 As part of the implementation of the IWN program, the DEA is expected to transition to very high frequency operations. However, until IWN is completed, the DEA must purchase, operate, and maintain costly dual-band radios to allow interoperability with other law enforcement organizations, including those in the DOJ.

Moreover, the older radios are large, obtrusive, and less reliable. Several DOJ officials told us during the audit that because of these factors, DOJ agents are sometimes using commercial communications devices such as cellular telephones and walkie-talkies, which are vulnerable to interception, for communicating with each other instead of agency hand-held radios.

Origins of IWN

In July 1998, Congress directed DOJ components to consolidate their individual efforts to replace their land mobile radio systems and created the DOJ Narrowband Communications Account to centrally fund conversion to narrowband radio communications. In addition, Congress directed DOJ’s JMD to serve as the central purchasing agent for all DOJ communications equipment and to develop an integrated, department-wide strategic plan to meet the narrowband conversion and interoperability requirements of DOJ. In October 1998, the Attorney General created the Wireless Management Office within JMD to oversee and direct DOJ’s consolidated approach to wireless communications and to centrally manage the consolidated wireless account.

Prior to FY 2002, DOJ and Treasury were independently pursuing solutions to meet the NTIA narrowband mandate. Due to the similar and complementary nature of the law enforcement missions and the co-location and overlapping geographic jurisdictions of the two departments, in November 2001, DOJ and Treasury signed a MOU agreeing to improve communications operability between and among their law enforcement agencies; improve communications operability between DOJ and Treasury and state, local, and other federal law enforcement agencies; achieve cost efficiencies; and meet the narrowband mandate.10 The MOU also established the IWN Joint Program Office to provide day-to-day management of the IWN program. The Joint Program Office received senior executive oversight and staff from both departments.

Seattle/Blaine Pilot Project

In September 2001, prior to the DOJ and Treasury combining efforts, the DOJ awarded a contract to identify and define the wireless communications requirements for DOJ components, convert the requirements to a recommended plan, and develop a design concept for a consolidated approach to meet the wireless communications needs of the DOJ. In November 2001, the scope of the contract was expanded to include the requirements of Treasury’s law enforcement bureaus. The contractor’s final report, the 2002 IWN design, recommended a very high frequency land mobile radio design that used “trunking,” a computer-controlled system that automatically allocates an open frequency from a pool of frequencies when a user initiates a radio call. The report recommended an aggressive implementation schedule beginning in January 2003 and ending in 2010.

Based on the results of the 2002 IWN design, in November 2002 the Joint Program Office awarded a contract to acquire the necessary hardware, software, and services for a pilot project to demonstrate the feasibility of the proposed technology. The pilot project, called the Seattle/Blaine Pilot Project, was initiated in the metropolitan Seattle, Washington, area and became fully operational in December 2004.

The pilot project provides a trunked, interoperable network that provides tactical wireless radio communications for over 600 federal users from 5 federal agencies, including the ATF, DEA, FBI, and USMS, which is interoperable with state and local law enforcement organizations in the Seattle/Blaine area. As part of the Seattle/Blaine Pilot Project, 17 radio sites were either built, purchased, upgraded, or borrowed from state and local organizations. These sites communicate with the individual users’ radios and with the prime site. The prime site houses the computer hardware and software and circuit connections that comprise the “brains” of the network.

The communication system tracks users in the coverage area and assigns the frequency most readily available to receive and transmit their radio communications to the prime site. As a result, users do not have to manually change radio channels as they move from one channel’s coverage area to another. Users are organized into talk groups based on their organization and functional requirements. Users in each talk group can communicate with other members in the same group, and users can communicate with other talk groups by requesting and receiving permission from other talk groups. The Joint Program Office funded the procurement of IWN compatible hand-held and mobile radios for the agencies participating in the Seattle/Blaine Pilot Project.

From its inception in November 2002 through September 2004, the Seattle/Blaine Pilot Project cost approximately $32 million. According to the Seattle/Blaine Beta Benchmark Assessment, the Seattle/Blaine Pilot Project reduced the number of required radio frequency sites from 43 to 15 in the Seattle/Blaine area, which resulted in estimated annual savings of $126,000 in site lease costs.11 According to the assessment, the pilot project also successfully demonstrated 66 percent more efficient use of spectrum resources through the use of trunking technology, which in addition to meeting federal narrowbanding requirements reduced the number of radio frequency assignments from 331 to 114. Importantly, the pilot project demonstrated the feasibility of a government owned, managed, and operated integrated wireless network among five federal agencies and proved the viability of the technology identified by the 2002 IWN design.

However, in April 2003 the DOJ Deputy CIO for Information Sharing reported to the IWN Executive Board that while the IWN acquisition strategy used for the Seattle/Blaine Pilot Project would adequately address current communications requirements of the DOJ, DHS, and Treasury, it might not be flexible enough to meet any change in requirements and to integrate new technologies over the life of the procurement. In addition, the Deputy CIO said that expanding the IWN project nationwide using the design and acquisition process from the Seattle/Blaine Pilot Project would not have been a good business decision because the DOJ had identified only one vendor capable of meeting requirements of a contract to expand the Seattle/Blaine Pilot Project nationwide. He said that without competition, cost savings and technological advantages would have been minimized. Further, the 2002 IWN design did not include industry advances in wireless technology and did not incorporate commercial services into the solution. Therefore, in July 2004 the IWN Executive Board initiated the current acquisition strategy to implement IWN on a nationwide basis. The Joint Program Office is in the final phase of the acquisition and plans to award contracts to one or more vendors in the second quarter of FY 2007.

Current Partnership with Treasury and Homeland Security

Creation of the DHS in November 2002 resulted in the transfer of several law enforcement agencies from Treasury and the DOJ to DHS, including components responsible for border protection and immigration and customs enforcement.

After the creation of DHS, in June 2004, the DOJ, DHS, and the Treasury CIOs signed a MOU whereby they agreed to develop, implement, and manage a joint wireless system.12 To provide executive-level guidance and policy direction for the Joint Program Office, the new MOU established the Integrated Wireless Network Executive Board (IWN Executive Board) and designated the CIOs from each of the three sponsoring departments as co chairs.

The IWN Executive Board’s acquisition strategy envisioned selecting a single contractor to implement the entire IWN program after completing the following three phases.

Phase 1 was based on information submitted by vendors regarding their high-level conceptual approach, organizational experience, and past performance.13 Four vendors elected to continue in the acquisition process. Phase 1 was completed in December 2004.

Phase 2 was the evaluation of detailed technical, management, and cost proposals received from four vendors to accomplish the entire IWN program. The evaluation resulted in the award of indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contracts to two vendors to prepare and deliver a detailed system design for a specific geographic area, an implementation plan for that area, and a firm fixed price to accomplish the implementation. In addition, the chosen contractors are required to submit a projected incremental design and implementation plan for the complete IWN deployment.14 Phase 2 was originally scheduled for completion in May 2005 but was not completed until June 2006.

Phase 3 is a design competition, expected to result in the selection of one or both contractors to implement the IWN program. The final contract will be for network integration, including planning, design, build-out, deployment, operations, program management, interoperability, technology refreshment/change, training, and maintenance of IWN. Phase 3 currently is scheduled for completion in the second quarter of FY 2007.

However, representatives from several DOJ law enforcement components told us they were extremely concerned with the length of time it is taking to implement IWN. The IWN project began in 2001 and the current acquisition strategy is about 15 months behind schedule. As discussed in the next section of the report, we found serious concerns regarding the funding of this crucial law enforcement program, fractures in the IWN partnership, and an ineffective governing structure for the program. As a result, successful completion of the integrated wireless network for the DOJ, DHS, and Treasury departments is in jeopardy.

OIG Audit Results

The OIG performed this audit to assess the status of the development and implementation of the IWN project. We found that the IWN project, which may cost $5 billion, is at high risk of failing to secure an integrated wireless network for use by DOJ, DHS, and Treasury.15 The causes for the high risk of failure include: (1) uncertain funding for the project; (2) disparate departmental funding mechanisms that allow the departments to pursue separate wireless communications solutions apart from IWN; (3) the fractured nature of the IWN partnership; and (4) the lack of an effective governing structure for the project. Unless these issues are addressed, a joint wireless communication system may not be developed and the resulting separate agency communications systems may not be adequate in the event of another terrorist attack or natural disaster that requires a coordinated emergency response.

In the report sections that follow, we discuss our findings for each of these concerns before describing the potential consequences of the failure to develop IWN. We then provide our recommendations regarding the IWN project.

Wireless Communication Funding Concerns

Two funding issues increase the IWN program’s risk of failure. First, there is substantial uncertainty that the program will be adequately funded. Second, disparate funding mechanisms within the participating departments allow the DHS to upgrade, repair, or replace its components’ legacy communication systems individually, while the DOJ operates under a mandate from Congress to develop a department-wide solution.

Uncertain Funding

IWN is currently one of the most expensive items in the Department’s Information Technology Investment Portfolio. The DOJ life cycle costs for IWN through 2021 are projected to exceed $2.5 billion.16 During our audit, the DOJ CIO told us that without a major increase in funding the IWN program will not be completed. The DOJ Deputy CIO for Information Sharing told us that if IWN is not implemented, DOJ will still need to invest about $900 million to replace legacy communications equipment, such as mobile and hand held radios, repeaters, and base stations that IWN was intended to upgrade. The DOJ CIO also noted that while replacing legacy equipment with new equipment would solve encryption problems and resolve the narrowband issue, it would not fully address the problem of “stove pipe” communications among DOJ components and would only marginally address interoperability. In our judgment, if IWN is not implemented, DOJ will miss a critical opportunity to provide more effective communications support to its law enforcement agents in the field.

Through FY 2006, approximately $772 million has been appropriated to fund the DOJ Narrowband Communications Account. However, instead of funding new technological solutions, almost two-thirds of this funding has been used to maintain the DOJ’s antiquated legacy systems. As the DOJ equipment continues to age, these costs are expected to increase by 5 percent each year. Since the inception of the Narrowband Communications Account in FY 2000, the cost of operating and maintaining legacy communications has been between 38 percent and 80 percent of the total program costs each fiscal year.

Disparate Departmental Funding Mechanisms

Funding of all DOJ legacy land mobile radio systems, including IWN, is consolidated within the Narrowband Communications Account that is managed by JMD’s Wireless Management Office. Because DOJ’s wireless communications budget is consolidated, the Wireless Management Office is responsible for funding the components’ legacy radio systems operations and maintenance needs. The Narrowband Communications Account’s appropriation language directs that no DOJ component can develop or procure additional radio equipment or infrastructure without prior approval from JMD. Consequently, DOJ components receive funding to operate and maintain their legacy communications systems through reimbursable agreements with the Wireless Management Office.

The DOJ Deputy CIO for Information Sharing told us that if a DOJ component needs to replace legacy equipment, it must request funding approval from the Wireless Management Office. The components are required to demonstrate the imminent failure of a particular system to receive funding to upgrade or replace existing legacy equipment and infrastructure. The DOJ Deputy CIO said that any remaining funding after individual component legacy communications operations and maintenance needs are met is allocated to IWN related investments.

Unlike at the DOJ, funding for DHS components’ legacy communications is not consolidated in a central account, which provides for significant flexibilities in decision making. The DHS has the flexibility to meet the immediate needs of their components by replacing and upgrading their legacy communications systems while still participating in IWN. Consequently, the DHS CIO can allocate narrowband conversion resources to individual components, programs, or geographic locations that he believes are in the best interest of the DHS. DOJ, in contrast, is required to develop an integrated department-wide solution because of the congressional requirement that all wireless communications spending be consolidated and managed by a central office. At a May 2006 Department Investment Technology Review Board meeting, the Deputy Attorney General expressed concern that this disparate funding structure is encouraging inefficiencies and the DOJ is losing the opportunity to create a truly integrated network.17

Fracture in the IWN Partnership

Our audit found strong indications that the IWN partnership is fractured. It appears that the DOJ and DHS are now pursuing separate wireless communications solutions instead of a single joint solution. The current MOU between DOJ, DHS and Treasury requires the departments to collaborate annually on a joint budget submission to request funding for the IWN program. For FYs 2005 through 2007, the departments collaborated on and submitted joint Office of Management and Budget Exhibit 300s.18 However, DOJ and DHS submitted separate Office of Management and Budget Exhibit 300s for IWN for FY 2008. In our judgment, such a sharp departure from the MOU calls into question the nature of the IWN partnership.

In October 2006, the DHS CIO told us that DHS is fully committed to the IWN program and has demonstrated its commitment by contributing staffing and funding resources.19 The DHS CIO also told us that DHS is consolidating its existing networks into a primary communications infrastructure called OneNet, similar to the DOJ’s JUTNet, and expects all DHS networks to be operating on OneNet within a year.20 In March 2006, the DHS Wireless Management Office Director stated that DOJ appears focused on using trunking technology in a single, nationwide solution.21 However, he said that DHS wants to use the IWN contract or contracts to acquire the necessary supplies and services to implement individual solutions for its priority geographic locations rather than a single, integrated wireless communications solution. The Director stated that as DHS begins this process in each location, it will approach DOJ, Treasury, and other departments to determine if it is feasible to develop a joint solution.

We discussed DHS’s and Treasury’s participation in the IWN project with the DOJ Deputy CIO for Information Sharing. He stated that the DOJ had been the only major player in the project for a considerable period of time. He also said that while Treasury had been a major participant, their participation in the project was minimized as a result of the reorganization that resulted in the creation of DHS. However, the DOJ CIO stated that DHS has never participated at the level DOJ expected.

The DOJ Deputy CIO for Information Sharing also told us that DOJ is pursuing a single, integrated solution for IWN. He said that if DOJ cannot build IWN with DHS, at least it can develop an integrated communications network for DOJ. The Deputy CIO also told us that if DHS uses the IWN contract or contracts only as procurement vehicles, at least there would be some commonality in equipment, services, and vendors between the departments’ individual solutions.

The IWN partnership currently appears to be fractured in its approach and disjointed in its goals to develop a secure, wireless, nationwide communication network. We believe that, as result, the system that results from this partnership likely will not be the seamless, interoperable system that was originally envisioned and therefore the communication systems may not be adequate in the event of another terrorist attack or national disaster.

Lack of Effective Governing Structure

We found that the IWN project also does not have an effective governing structure because there is no practical mechanism to resolve disagreements between departments. The June 2004 MOU assigns the governance of IWN to the IWN Executive Board, and requires that decisions be made by consensus. However, as the DOJ Deputy CIO for Information sharing told us, if DOJ and DHS do not agree, IWN does not go forward. The MOU does not provide a process to move forward in the absence of consensus. This is of particular concern because, according to the Deputy CIO, repeated turnover in key DHS personnel has resulted in time consuming efforts to re-examine previous decisions with new DHS officials to reach consensus.

We were told that since the formation of the current partnership in June 2004, DHS has had two Wireless Management Office Directors, and that as of October 3, 2006, the position was vacant. During this same period, DHS has had two CIOs and one acting CIO. Furthermore, language in DHS FY 2007 appropriations law established the Office of Emergency Communications and transferred IWN responsibilities to that office. Because IWN administration has been the DHS CIO’s responsibility, we are concerned that DOJ will again be faced with the need to revisit previous decisions with new DHS personnel.

Radio program managers and senior managers from four DOJ components also expressed concern regarding IWN program delays, the nature of the IWN partnership, and their inability to influence IWN Executive Board decisions related to the IWN program. The consistency and critical nature of the issues raised by DOJ radio program managers and senior managers demonstrate the components’ frustration with the development and implementation of IWN.

Consequences of IWN Project Failure

The failure of IWN could have significant adverse consequences, even beyond the financial losses. A failure to upgrade DOJ components’ antiquated communications systems, with or without IWN, represents a risk to the safety of DOJ law enforcement officers and agents. Further, failure of the IWN project will represent significant missed opportunities to achieve cost and spectrum efficiencies and needed communications interoperability between federal law enforcement agencies. In addition, because DOJ plans to address its narrowband requirements with IWN, failure of the program will require the DOJ to seek alternative solutions such as a department-wide network or a network developed by DOJ and Treasury.

Safety: Wireless communications systems are a critical part of most law enforcement operations, and usually provide the sole means of communications connectivity that is crucial to the overall operation. DOJ has been relying on IWN to address a myriad of problems with its current wireless communications systems. Over the years, the performance of its wireless communication systems has degraded in terms of coverage, reliability, and usability. The systems provide limited federal-to-federal and federal-to-state/local interoperability, do not use radio spectrum efficiently, and require extensive operations and maintenance funds.

The vast majority of DOJ legacy systems are comprised of technology that is over 10 years old. As a result, devices function only on wideband land mobile radio channels that are no longer compliant with NTIA policy, or only with a Digital Encryption Standard algorithm which is no longer supported by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and is recognized as “weak” security. We were told that the current encryption standard used by the majority of DOJ’s legacy systems is vulnerable to amateur hacking attempts, and that communications may be intercepted by unauthorized parties, thereby jeopardizing operations. Further, most of DOJ’s current devices function in an analog versus digital mode, which means they have limited functionality and diminished voice communications quality.

We found that, due to the age of the equipment, 73 percent of DOJ’s 4,163 radio system sites are no longer supported by the manufacturer and these obsolete radios are also large and obtrusive. Several DOJ officials told us that agents are sometimes using commercial service devices that are vulnerable to interception in lieu of hand-held radios. In our judgment, this represents a serious, unacceptable safety risk to agents and DOJ law enforcement operations.

Cost Efficiency: When the Narrowband Communications Account was created in 1998, one of the primary concerns expressed in the appropriations language was the need to increase efficiency and savings through shared infrastructure and common procurement strategies. The 2002 IWN cost model estimated approximately $1.19 billion in additional investment costs if the departments do not collaborate and instead develop their own tactical communications solutions.

Spectrum Efficiency: DOJ is one of the largest users of very high frequency spectrum, with more than 14,000 frequency assignments. Approximately 70 percent of the radio frequencies assigned to DOJ are for tactical communications support, which is critical to agent safety and operational effectiveness. However, as of April 2006, only 22 percent of these frequencies are narrowband compliant.

The Chief of the Spectrum Support Division of the Office of the Spectrum Management at NTIA told us that for calendar years 2005 and 2006, agencies that had not met the narrowband requirement were allowed to request waivers to continue protected wideband operations on the frequencies subject to the NTIA mandate. The Chief of the Spectrum Support Division said that during the past 2 years NTIA had received and granted tens of thousands of waiver requests.

However, in September 2006 the NTIA's Frequency Assignment Subcommittee approved a change that will eliminate waivers that would allow continued protection for wideband operations on the frequencies subject to the NTIA mandate and instead require the NTIA’s Frequency Assignment Subcommittee to adjudicate only unresolved conflicts that arise between agencies involved in overlapping narrowband and wideband operations. As a result, beginning January 1, 2007, DOJ will be operating on a non-interference basis on 10,129 frequency assignments. This means that DOJ law enforcement communications on those frequency assignments may be subject to interference from narrowband communications of other agencies and that DOJ will have no basis to request the interfering operation to stop. Further, if DOJ wideband operations interfere with other users’ narrowband operations, DOJ could be required to cease operating on the frequency.

Interoperability: The initial IWN design that was the basis for the Seattle/Blaine Pilot Project addressed interoperability by planning for gateways that would allow IWN users to communicate with state and local public safety communication systems. According to The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States (9/11 Commission):

The inability to communicate was a critical element at the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and Somerset County, Pennsylvania, crash sites, where multiple agencies and multiple jurisdictions responded. The occurrence of this problem at three very different sites is strong evidence that compatible and adequate communications among public safety organizations at the local, state, and federal levels remains an important problem.22

We asked the IWN Executive Board representatives about IWN’s progress toward achieving the goal of interoperability.

According to the DHS CIO, DOJ and DHS can achieve interoperability, including wireless communications interoperability, through gateways between JUTNet and OneNet, the two primary departmental networks. The DHS CIO told us that because the DHS cannot wait for IWN, it has included the requirement for IWN interoperability in its recent Secure Border Initiative contract.

According to the DOJ Chief Information Officer, DHS’s following an independent approach would not rule out interoperability, but the resulting communication system would not be as well coordinated as a system developed through an integrated approach and would make interoperability more difficult and costly to achieve.

The Treasury Chief Information Officer advised us that if DHS pursues an independent approach, “interoperability will be fuzzy” and that as long as one department is free to go their own way, nothing can be done to improve interoperability. He also stated that the goal of all the departments is to increase interoperability, not only for emergency situations, but for day to day operations.

The level of interoperability described by the IWN Executive Board representatives does not reflect the seamless communications capability originally envisioned for the network and, in our judgment, may not be adequate in the event of another terrorist attack or natural disaster.


Our audit found that the IWN program is facing significant challenges and a high risk that the joint narrowband communications network originally envisioned for the DOJ, DHS, and Treasury will not be realized. Despite over 6 years of development and more than $195 million in funding for IWN, apart from one pilot system DOJ law enforcement agents have received little in the way of new, secure, compliant radio equipment through IWN. We found that the causes for the risk of failure include uncertain funding to complete the project, disparate departmental funding mechanisms, a fractured IWN partnership, and the lack of an effective governing structure for the project.

A failure of the IWN project would represent a significant missed opportunity to achieve needed communications interoperability among federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. In addition, failure of the joint IWN project will require DOJ and other agencies to independently create communications networks, which we believe would result in substantially increased overall costs and less efficient use of the radio spectrum. Moreover, failure to upgrade DOJ components’ antiquated communications systems with or without IWN would represent an unnecessary risk to the safety of DOJ law enforcement agents and Department law enforcement operations.

DOJ has been relying on IWN to address a myriad of problems with its current wireless communications systems, which consist of multiple stove piped land mobile radio systems with infrastructure dating back 15 to 20 years. Over the years, the performance of these systems has degraded in terms of coverage, reliability, and usability. Of the Department’s 4,163 radio system sites, 3,022 are no longer supported by the manufacturer, which means spare parts are difficult to find and maintenance is essentially a “custom service.” In addition, much of the Department’s current radio equipment is large and obtrusive. We were told that the size of current hand-held radios, combined with their limited functionality and decreasing reliability, has lead some DOJ agents to use commercial cellular telephones and walkie-talkies that are vulnerable to interception in lieu of hand held radios.

Just to replace its antiquated legacy wireless communications equipment would cost DOJ approximately $900 million. However, DOJ will require more than twice that amount to fund its share of IWN. Consequently, for the DOJ, DHS, and Treasury to complete IWN as planned, a major infusion of funding will be required over the next several years.

Our audit found that the fractured nature of the current IWN partnership and the disjointed approach of the two primary partners to achieve the IWN goals seriously threatens the success of the IWN program. In order to salvage the intended multi-agency project, we believe IWN requires a partnership among the agencies involved, with a commitment to common goals and methods to achieve those goals. DOJ, DHS, and Treasury need to commit to a joint IWN solution rather than addressing individual communications issues in their respective departments. The three departments also must develop a cohesive management approach to direct IWN development and deployment.

The current ineffective governing structure of the IWN program has led to significant delays in the program. Valuable time has been spent reaching decisions between agencies that are revisited due to turnover of key personnel. Due to the complexity, expense, and critical nature of this program, a coordinated and effective governing structure is imperative for IWN to succeed.


Our report contains four recommendations. We recommend that DOJ establish an agreement with the DHS and Treasury departments that accurately reflects each agency’s commitment to the IWN project. This agreement should explicitly state the shared goals, equitable responsibilities, and comparable resource contributions and funding requirements of the sponsoring departments.

If the departments are unable to reach agreement on a unified approach, we recommend that the DOJ notify Congress and the Office of Management and Budget that the IWN project is not viable as a joint project with DHS, and that DOJ and Treasury are pursuing their own IWN strategy to meet their department’s wireless communications requirements.

In addition, if DOJ is unable to reach agreement on a unified approach with DHS and Treasury, the DOJ must develop and implement a departmental plan to upgrade its legacy wireless communications systems.

We also recommend that the Assistant Attorney General for Administration ensure that an agreement is reached that allows DOJ to continue its wideband operations on very high and ultra high frequencies without interference.

  1. For the purpose of this report, the term “DOJ law enforcement officers” includes Special Agents, Deputy Marshals, and other DOJ law enforcement officers.

  2. Land mobile radio is a mobile radio service operating between fixed base stations, and stations (mobile and hand held) capable of surface movement. Radio frequency is any frequency within the electromagnetic spectrum.

  3. A key is the code programmed into radios to allow encrypted communications within a system. To ensure security, these keys must be changed periodically. Over-the-air re-keying would allow a law enforcement officer to receive an updated encryption code rather than requiring manual reprogramming by a radio technician. OTAR capability is limited to the system capability. For example, even though individual radios may be OTAR capable, without the system being OTAR capable there is no OTAR functionality within the system.

  4. For the purpose of this audit, we are comparing the number of radio sites per reported system. Radio sites are typically the basic cost unit of a communications system.

  5. The Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) is an encryption algorithm that was approved by the National Institute of Standards and Technology in November 2001 for use by U.S. Government organizations to protect sensitive information. This algorithm replaces the Data Encryption Standard (DES) that has been in use since 1977 and is no longer approved for Federal use.

  6. For the purpose of this audit, obsolete systems are systems that are no longer supported by the manufacturer.

  7. The DOJ OIG uses ATF’s systems for its radio communications.

  8. The USMS primarily uses FBI’s systems for its radio communications. The USMS is in the process of installing a new radio system with multiple radio sites in the New York/New Jersey area.

  9. A DEA official told us that their communications systems are ultra high frequency because that spectrum was available when the DEA was established in 1972.

  10. In 2001, DOJ law enforcement components included the DEA, FBI, Immigration and Naturalization Service, and U.S. Marshals Service. Treasury law enforcement components included the U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Customs Service, and ATF.

  11. The Seattle/Blaine Beta Benchmark Assessment, completed in May 2004, reported the progress of the project toward achieving the overall goals of the IWN program.

  12. A copy of the MOU between DOJ, Treasury, and DHS is in Appendix 4.

  13. Phase 1 was an acquisition process whereby an agency publishes a pre-solicitation notice that provides a general description of the scope or purpose of the acquisition and invites potential offerors to submit information that allows the government to advise the offerors about their potential to be viable competitors.

  14. An indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract is a contract for supplies or services that does not specify a firm quantity of supplies or services other than a minimum or maximum quantity, and provides for the issuance of delivery or task orders during the contract period.

  15. Under the current IWN partnership MOU, DOJ and DHS equally share the design and implementation costs of IWN. Assuming a similar cost sharing arrangement as the program goes forward, DOJ’s share of the estimated $5 billion in life cycle costs through 2021 is $2.5 billion.

  16. Life cycle costs are the estimated costs associated with program planning, project implementation, and the operation and maintenance of legacy and IWN communications systems over a 15-year period.

  17. The Department Investment Technology Review Board is charged with overseeing the Department’s IT investment management program by monitoring the selection and performance of IT investments that are high profile, high cost, and/or high risk.

  18. The Office of Management and Budget requires agencies to submit Exhibit 300s for major information technology investments as part of its budget justification and reporting process. The Exhibit 300 demonstrates compliance with capital programming and planning and investment control policies and justifies new or continued funding for major acquisitions. The Office of Management and Budget uses the Exhibit 300 to make decisions about budgetary resources and to assess agencies’ programming processes.

  19. As we explain later, there has been significant turnover in the DHS CIO position during IWN development.

  20. OneNet is a planned communications network that will result from the consolidation of the DHS components’ sensitive but unclassified data networks. JUTNet is a planned single, secure network that will handle classified and sensitive but unclassified material to replace the Justice Consolidated Network.

  21. As previously defined, trunking is a computer-controlled system that uses all the available frequencies in a pool, automatically allocating an open frequency each time someone on the system initiates a radio call. Although trunking technology provides greater spectrum efficiency and functionality, this technology costs significantly more than conventional technology.

  22. National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, Final Report of The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (2004)

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