Development of a wireless network designed to connect major governmental entities, such as the Homeland Security agency and the Department of Justice, is at risk for failure, a top official said.
A report has been issued by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine, according to the Associated Press. In his brief, the Inspector General concluded that a project known as the Integrated Wireless Network (IWN) is likely to fail despite six years of development and an investment so far of over $195 million.
Part of the problem is that a partnership among the DOJ, Homeland Security, and the Treasury Department is "fractured," Fine was quoted as saying.
In his report, Fine noted that the project does not appear to be on the way toward providing the system that was envisioned. He said he believes that there are several reasons for the potential failure, and the current issues, including disparate funding mechanisms, and poor communication between the DOJ and Homeland Security in particular.
Lack of an effective governing structure has also hampered the progress, Fine reported. He criticized the DOJ for spending significant amounts of money on its existing system, rather than putting forth the effort and funding for the IWN project.
Nearly two-thirds of the money earmarked for a DOJ communications system has been used to maintain current systems instead of moving toward updates, according to Fine. In fiscal 2006, about $772 million has been appropriated for the DOJ's Narrowband Communications Account, managed by a unit called the Wireless Management Office.
Fine noted that the DOJ told Inspector General auditors that legacy needs must be met first, and only after that will any remaining funds be used toward IWN system requirements.
The IWN plans were drawn up after other federal wireless projects had been implemented in the early part of the decade. Several successful projects in 2001 led to the proposal that became IWN's designs.
Shortly after, a successful implementation called the Seattle/Blaine Pilot Project seemed to be promising for creation of a larger network. That $32 million initiative focused on creating stronger efficiencies in a wireless network shared among different groups.
In mid-2004, the DOJ, Homeland Security, and the Treasury Department created a memorandum of understanding that articulated their goal for the implementation and management of the joint wireless system.
For the first few years of the project, the three departments submitted joint budget proposals for funding the system, but recently they have each filed separate requests, fueling speculation that the partnership is in trouble.
According to Fine's audit report, the Inspector General's office believes that the result will not be the seamless, interoperable system that is needed, and that communication systems might not be adequate in the event of another terrorist attack, or a national disaster.