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Post-9/11 DOJ Tech Project Dying After 10 Years? 115

Posted by samzenpus
from the time-to-give-up dept.
gManZboy writes "A secure, interoperable radio network that the Department of Justice has been working on for more than a decade and that has cost the agency $356 million may be headed for failure, according to a new report by the agency's inspector general. Called for in the wake of 9/11, the Integrated Wireless Network (IWS) project has already been repeatedly scaled back. Today, the Department of Justice continues to rely on several separate land mobile radio systems, some of which are unreliable, obsolete, and fail to interoperate with one another. Agents often have to swap radios, share channels, or refer to a book of radio frequencies and manually switch between those frequencies to stay online. Radios remain insecure, as much of the current equipment fails to meet encryption requirements. Much of the agency's equipment is more than 15 years old and is no longer even supported by the manufacturer."
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Post-9/11 DOJ Tech Project Dying After 10 Years?

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  • by Gothmolly (148874) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @08:57PM (#38756426)

    The point was NOT to create a secure, interoperable radio network. The purpose of the plan was to create legions of (somehow) "successful" project managers and government hangers-on with quasi-governmental authority, and pump money into those organizations in return for future favors. Whether or not it produced anything was irrelevant. Around 9/11 there's so much fearmongering that nobody will say no.

  • Re:Is it sad (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hedwards (940851) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @09:09PM (#38756558)

    $356m isn't much money which is why it doesn't sound like much money any more. That's basically a little over $1 for every person that resides in the US. The problem is that unless it's really obvious up front it's typically not worth looking for these sorts of expenditures when the DoD alone represents more wasted money than pretty much all these small potatoes altogether.

  • by dgatwood (11270) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @09:11PM (#38756580) Journal

    Even if it were, I'm not convinced that a secure network for this sort of thing is appropriate. Imagine a world in which the media do not arrive until an hour after the police because they can no longer use scanners to monitor the chatter. That significantly impacts the press's ability to serve as a guardian of freedom.

    Imagine a world in which home burglars sneak into an occupied house at night. They don't hear the police call on the radio, so they don't know that the police are on their way. Instead of the burglars cutting their losses and running away at the first sign of trouble, the police arrive silently while they are still in the house. Now you have a hostage standoff in which there's a good chance that everybody dies.

    In probably 99% of situations, it is better for the public to have access to police communications. Sure, there are occasionally situations where the use of secure communications is warranted and helpful. These situations are by far the exception, rather than the rule, however, and the potential for abuse of a secure system exceeds its utility by a sizable margin.

  • Surprised? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ks*nut (985334) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @09:14PM (#38756622)
    And how is this any different than any of the programs that followed 9/11? TSA is trampling roughshod over travelers' rights, the Department of Homeland Security is a bloated farce, and the individual's basic rights under the Constitution have been eroded. To say nothing of the years of rendition flights, wars, and torture. I'm certainly glad that we're the "good guys." I wonder what the "bad guys" have been up to.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 19, 2012 @09:33PM (#38756766)

    By and large, the 'public' doesn't have access to police communications; you must hang out with a different class of people. And which burglars DO you know? They aren't the ones doing most of crime in most of the cities where it's smash and grab.

    Oh, and guardians of freedom, the press? Give me a break. $356M is a lot of money to me, but to those who perpetrated the largest transfer of wealth in history, that would be Bush/Cheney Inc., $356M is mice nutz, and the press did everything but crawl in bed with the bastards. We don't have a Congress, much less a 4th estate, that qualifies, in general, as guardians of freedom.

    Hey, send some of whatever you're smokin' to my hood, and I'll see if I can pass it out to all the police scanner wielding guardians of freedom I meet up with after they've attributed the latest National Intelligence Assessment to sources who can't be named.

    BTW I worked on a partnership/proposal with Northrop Grumman to deliver hardware for the secure, private 1st responder network that was supposed to blanket Manhattan with a 2.4 Ghz Wifi based mobile communications network. 'We' came, we spoke, we left... I've spoken w/ people in several technical camps who believe that the biggest impediment are entrenched contractors, like Motorola, but I'm convinced that only satellite based system makes any sense, anyway. Because in the event of a large scale disaster, there's no way to ensure the integrity of enough of the infrastructure so that the communications load would be reliable. On top of which, you'd still have to have the means by which each of the various groups would be able to take turns speaking without stepping on each other... who's gonna lead/follow or get out of the way?

    There's no AWAC in the sky or central command, and there's no way to practice for the 'big one.' So it's no surprise there's been -0.0- progress on this Applepeye-in-the-Sky project. Besides, if we wait long enough, the Chinese will implement a system that we can buy from Walmart.

  • Opt for both. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Thursday January 19, 2012 @09:42PM (#38756846)

    For day to day police operations, the system should be able to handle unencrypted traffic.

    Because adding encryption means an additional layer that can go wrong and thus necessitates a 2nd channel for the support people to use to try to fix the primary (encrypted) channel.

    And have encryption an option for the times when you REALLY need it. And have frequent tests of it to make sure that everyone knows how to enable it.

    But I'm more in agreement with the GP post. This wasn't really about a working radio system. It was about moving public money to private businesses. The WTC attack and the fear were just the excuses used. IF a working product was delivered ... wow! If not, at least your buddies collected their share of the HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS in this project.

  • Re:Is it sad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pharmboy (216950) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @09:51PM (#38756920) Journal

    And if you add that dollar to the $1.33 for Solyndra, and the dollars for all the other failures, pretty soon you have enough money for a nice bottle of Scotch for every man, woman and child, which is a good thing because this pissing away my money is definitely driving me to drinking.

  • by timeOday (582209) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @10:08PM (#38757046)

    The purpose of the plan was to create legions of (somehow) "successful" project managers and government hangers-on with quasi-governmental authority, and pump money into those organizations in return for future favors.

    In that case, the project failed, because it was originally planned at $5BN, and only 1/15th of that was spent on it. And of that, according to the article, "Much of the funding for IWN at the time went instead to maintain creaky legacy systems."

    In other words, they backed down from the plan, and fell back on supporting the status quo. Which is kind of sad, but maybe it wasn't worth $5BN and we should be glad support was withdrawn.

  • by artor3 (1344997) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @10:20PM (#38757132)

    And you think they want to go away? Of course not. They try their best, and still occasionally fail. But when the government does the same, we're supposed to view it as this evil thing that needs to be torn down.

    People who want the government to shrivel up and die hold it to an impossibly high standard, all so that they have a pretense to bring it down.

  • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @11:50PM (#38757726) Journal

    356 Million over how many years is chump change to both (D) and (R) parties. Hell, even your revered Obama managed to send 500 Million to Solyndra only to have it go bankrupt MONTHS later. BOTH parties are raiding the public treasure chest for their own goals.

    To blame Bush only, as you have, is simply ignoring the other 1/2 the problem, and short sighted on your part. Bush and crew are exactly Obama and crew, only you like Obama and will ignore his malfeasance. Both parties are responsible for where we are right now, 15 TRILLION in debt, and will be MUCH closer to 20 by the time we have elections with no slowing down in sight. We are unsustainable economically, something GREEN liberals should understand. And no, taxing 100% of the income of the top 20% of earners won't solve the problem either, it won't even put a dent in it.

    If you want my opinion, the solution would be to find several midwestern citys of similar size and give each contractor a set budget and time limit to build out competing infrastructure of their complete choosing. The one contractor that meets the goals of the project in the budget and time constraints gets the specs to build out the rest of the country. In addition, those specs become OPEN in ten years (or whatever) for interoperability and competition, meaning the buildout needs to be complete by then by the awarded contract or tough shit. Lets use COMPETITION, real competition, to accelerate innovation.

    THAT kind of approach will put America back to work. We're Americans, stop the whining and get to building shit and kicking ass.

  • by CapOblivious2010 (1731402) on Friday January 20, 2012 @12:29AM (#38757908)
    Imagine a world where those suffering from BDS (Bush Derangement Syndrome) spin absolutely preposterous "theories", like the US Gov't blowing up the twin towers. Forget radios - how many people would need be involved? How likely is it that NONE of them will talk? And none of them took pictures of the explosives being planted in the WTC? Oh, wait, maybe those who were about to talk were quietly censored (how exactly does that work) or were detained indefinitely in gulags. Maybe it was those hundreds of Blackwater contractors who went missing right around 9/11... oh wait, no one ever reported any such thing... OK, so their entire families were hauled off, too. That would explain those hundreds of families that simply disappeared from neighborhoods and schools and spousal jobs, etc. Wait, no one ever heard about that either? I guess those evil bastards kidnapped everyone who knew anyone in the families - and everyone THEY knew, too. Oh, and what about the hauler-offers? You can't have them telling embarrassing tales - best to tell THEM to report to the gulag as soon as they're done kidnapping tens of thousands of people.

    Look, I'll give you "evil" if you want. Fine, Bush is the devil himself. But no way in hell is the US gov't competent enough to pull off a stunt like that. Believing that "neo-con MORONS" could somehow do all that - and leave no real evidence of their actions - takes "cognitive dissonance" to a whole new level.
  • Ham Radio (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thephydes (727739) on Friday January 20, 2012 @02:53AM (#38758488)
    Thank God for Ham Radio - all volunteers, most likely all patriots in time of great need, all providing gear of various levels of sophistication at no cost to the public.

Never invest your money in anything that eats or needs repainting. -- Billy Rose

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