Procurement, requirements of wireless net outlined

The departments of Homeland Security, Justice and Treasury hope to issue an initial request for proposals for an Integrated Wireless Network late this month and to select vendors for a design competition by next May.

The design competition will be the final phase in the procurement of the multi-billion dollar communications system for federal law enforcement officers. IWN would replace legacy analog systems with an urgently needed interoperable digital network.

'The departments operate a wide variety of communications systems for their law enforcement and protective personnel,' the IWN Joint Program Office said in a request for comments on its acquisition plans. 'These legacy systems have been plagued with problems in recent years.'

Problems include antiquated technology, inadequate coverage, lack of capacity and crowded radio spectrum.

Comments on the draft statement of objectives, acquisition strategy and the criteria for selection of bidders should be offered by noon, Aug. 9 by e-mail to iwn@usdoj.gov.

IWN would be a common radio network capable of handling voice, data and multimedia for all federal law enforcement, first-response and homeland security agencies. The statement of objectives does not specify the technology to be used.

'We want to state our requirements, and we want industry to propose solutions,' said Michael Duffy, deputy CIO for electronic government at Justice, the lead department.

The network currently is envisioned as a very high frequency, trunked system using the Project 25 standard for interoperable digital radio with an IP backbone. It will use the Advanced Encryption Standard.

The network is to serve more than 80,000 law enforcement users in the three sponsoring departments. Those departments include the bulk of federal law enforcement personnel, but IWN would be available to all federal law enforcement officers, including inspectors general. It is estimated that the program will require about 2,500 sites to provide coverage for major metro areas and highways, borders and ports of entry.

A single company will be tapped to plan, design, build, deploy, operate and maintain the network. The cost of the program is capped at $10 billion over 10 years. A 2002 engineering study estimated the cost of implementing the system at $3 billion, a figure that since has been whittled down to $2.6 billion. But current DHS, Justice and Treasury budgets support only half that much.

'The IWN Program will be subject to irregular and/or incremental funding over the life of the IWN contract and will be dependent on the government's budget cycles,' the request for comments warns. 'Offerors' solutions must be flexible to accommodate the contemporary budgetary environment.'

In the initial phase of the selection process, prospective vendors will be judged on past performance, experience and capabilities, and on the feasibility of the concept presented. Each must supply at least three government or commercial references.

Survivors of the first round of eliminations will be invited to submit proposals for a government-funded design competition for the first service area. The winner of the competition will receive the IWN contract.

The proposed acquisition schedule, which is subject to change, is:

  • The Phase 1 request for proposals would run from Aug. 24 to Sept. 21.

  • A comment period on the Phase 2 draft RFP would run from Oct. 1 through Oct. 24.

  • The Phase 2 RFP would run from Nov. 16 to Jan. 28.

  • Contracts for participation in the design competition would be awarded May 5, 2005.


  • The actual dates of the competition and subsequent selection of a vendor have not been determined.

    About the Author

    William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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