Industry day set for wireless network

Department of Justice

Federal officials will hold an event later this month to give potential vendors an overview of a new consolidated nationwide interoperable mobile communications system for federal agencies that could cost as much as $2.6 billion and take several years to complete.

Scheduled for April 27, the Industry Day for the Integrated Wireless Network Program will be held at the Marriott Crystal Gateway, 1700 Jefferson Davis Highway in Arlington, Va., from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. To register, call Stephen Slavsky at (703) 502-5571. Information will also be listed on the Federal Business Opportunities Web site.

Jointly led by the Justice, Treasury, and Homeland Security departments, the wireless network project has been in the works for three years to replace an "aged, antiquated, and, in some cases, failing radio system" used by a variety of federal agencies, including the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Secret Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the FBI, said Michael Duffy, deputy chief information officer for e-government at the Justice Department.

"We really are a bunch of islands unconnected at the moment," said Duffy, adding that communications are hampered when agents move from one area to another and transfer data.

A statement of objectives for the new network will be finalized in the coming weeks — although not in time for Industry Day — to help vendors identify key items in creating evaluations or preliminary proposals on what such a system might look like, Duffy said. Officials will choose companies from those evaluations and give them more information so they can add more details to their proposals.

"We are looking for a partnership," he told attendees today at Input's MarketView 2004 conference in Falls Church, Va. "We are not looking to dictate how this gets done."

No timeline for issuing a request for proposals or awarding the performance-based contract has yet been established, Duffy said.

The project won't provide direct service to state and local governments, but IWN will provide interoperable connectivity to such agencies. Justice and Homeland Security officials have also identified 25 high-priority cities where IWN could augment local systems and build the necessary partnerships, Duffy said.

Logistics management -- locating sites and implementing infrastructure and equipment in what could be difficult areas -- is a key issue for vendors. Currently, the agencies are working on a pilot in Seattle, which federal, state and local officials are struggling with, Duffy said. Motorola Inc. is also involved in the ongoing pilot project, which is using specific technology and standards that may help federal officials with engineering issues for the larger IWN project, he added.

Vendors should also be aware of cost and scheduling pressures. They are providing Congress with quarterly reports about the project and lawmakers are interested in it, but they need to show progress, Duffy said. The reality is they have been running the program for three years and have little to show for it, he said.

The project may take five to 10 years and vendors should keep pace with the advance of technology over that period, Duffy said.

Acquisition Solutions Inc. won a Justice contract in March to help with acquisition support and develop a contract management strategy for the IWN initiative.

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