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June 09, 2015

DHS Must Act on Interoperable Communications Strategy

June 9, 2015 (WASHINGTON) – Today, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security, and Rep. Donald M. Payne, Jr. (D-NJ), Ranking Member of the Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications Subcommittee, released the below statement regarding a Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (DHS OIG) verification review (OIG-15-97-VR) of its 2012 audit of the Department's oversight of interoperable communications (OIG-13-06). In the 2012 report, the IG found that over ten years after 9/11, only 0.25% of the radios used by DHS components could access and use the specified common channel to communicate and only 20% contained the correct settings for the channel.

In this new review, the IG found that although DHS has begun developing multiple corrective actions, these plans have not yet been finalized or implemented and there currently exists no timetable to do so. Not only does this make DHS underprepared for emergencies, it also hinders communications for daily operations and planned events. In response to this ongoing issue, Ranking Member Payne, Jr. introduced the Department of Homeland Security Interoperable Communications Act (H.R.615) this year. This legislation passed the House of Representatives in February and is currently being considered in the Senate. H.R. 615 mandates the creation of a more rigorous and comprehensive interoperable communications strategy, with reporting requirements, to help the Department achieve its communications goals.

Ranking Members Thompson and Payne, Jr. released the following joint statement on the review:

"Almost 14 years after 9/11, it is incredibly disturbing that the Department of Homeland Security still lacks the proper technology and procedures to allow its frontline workers to communicate properly with each other. The Department must stop dragging its feet on creating and implementing a communications interoperability plan. This must be a top priority. We urge the Senate to swiftly pass H.R.615 so we can put the Department on a path forward to fix this long-standing problem. Fully functioning interoperable communications is a public safety necessity and is critical for DHS to properly fulfill its mission."

Link to Report (OIG-15-97-VR)

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Media Contact: Adam Comis at (202) 225-9978