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Homeland Security's $430 million radio investment came in fuzzy

homelandsecurity_optBY PAM LOBLEY
NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM
NOW THAT’S FUNNY

The Department of Homeland Security made a big investment -- $430 million -- in radios so that different federal agencies could communicate with each other on a common channel. Unfortunately, no one knows how to use the radios.

Are you Sirius?

According to a report by Pro Publica, only one in 479 DHS employees surveyed was actually able to use the common channel. Most of them, 72 percent, didn’t even know the channel existed. Some knew about it, but couldn’t find it.

And some were using their radios to just get down and funky with some classic rock.

The DHS Inspector General issued a report that acknowledged that more than half the radios did not have settings for the common channel programmed into them. What’s worse, they couldn’t get "Imus in the Morning," and if you wanted to hear the cool jazz station, you had to hold your radio slightly down and behind your left hip and keep it there, otherwise the static would be unbearable.

Responding to this report, the liaison between DHS and the Government Accountability Office, Jim H. Crumpacker, said there had been significant strides made in the communication efforts between federal, state and local agencies, but that there was still a ways to go. The main problem seems to be that there have been a number of entities assigned to implement the radios and their system, but that none had been given the proper authority to enforce their recommendations.

The radios have the potential to transform communications among agencies, but for right now, they seem to be getting a fuzzy reception.

Pam Lobley writes the “Now That’s Funny” column. Check out her blog: Better Living Through Chaos! Follow her on Twitter @plobley.

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