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Sun-Sentinel: Radio upgrades keep first responders prepared

Friday, April 01, 2016

Harris Corporation is one of Florida’s largest technology companies and is honored to support the military, law enforcement and various industries with our state-of-the-art communication systems. We have 6,000 employees throughout the state, including our research and development team in Sunrise.

One of the major communication systems Harris runs is the State Law Enforcement Radio System, which operates 20,000 radios for thousands of Florida first responders. The Sun Sentinel’s March 28 editorial, “Political Static on State Radio Contract,” decided to weigh in on legislative political battles over SLERS, yet failed to consider all the facts provided to the newspaper.

For one, the editorial carries the competition’s message that radios are “not needed.” As the state’s SLERS vendor until 2021, Harris is responsible for equipping and operating the network. That includes upgrading or replacing radios over the life of the contract — a majority of which now are increasingly difficult to maintain and repair due to age.

These facts have been well-documented. In 2011, the Joint Task Force Board, a committee of state law enforcement agency heads, wrote, “The current mobile radios used in our system have been identified for end of support and will become obsolete by December 2014. This technology must be replaced with newer mainstream equipment that is capable of operating on the federally supported P-25 platform.”

The 2015 Law Enforcement Communications Plan’s guidelines state portable radios should be replaced every six years and mobile radios every eight years. Following those guidelines, the state is operating 7,096 portable radios and 6,900 mobile radios past the replacement guidelines — some as many as seven years past due.

The editorial wrongly leans on the fact that the JTF didn’t request radios. While the JTF plays an important role in SLERS, it does not submit budget requests for the individual law enforcement agencies who use the SLERS network.

The editorial also inaccurately infers that replacing the radios with new P-25 radios gives Harris an advantage when the contract is put up for bid in 2021. Project 25 is the most current law enforcement radio technology available. It is an open standard, meaning P-25 radios purchased from any vendor work on a P-25 network provided by any vendor. The editorial notes that “all radios purchased now must be compatible with the new system,” yet contradicts itself by proclaiming this helps Harris. If Harris has an advantage, it’s that the company has successfully run SLERS since 2000.

The Florida Legislature recognized the need and addressed the situation. Yet, Harris competitor lobbyists fought behind the scenes during the legislative session to block officers from getting new radios. Does this mean they prefer officers use radios that are more than a decade old?

Florida first responders need to be prepared for an ever-changing emergency landscape, and they shouldn’t be relying on decades-old communication tools. Harris commends the governor and Florida Legislature for addressing these needs and hopes the Sun Sentinel considers this information in future editorials.

Glenn Grab is director of State and Local Government Relations at Harris Corporation

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