TUCSON, Ariz. -- The Homeland Security Department has spent nearly a half billion dollars to provide modern, secure radios to its agents and employees. But the Office of Inspector General has found that most agents haven’t been shown how to use them.
The OIG audited the agency and found that in nine years, Homeland Security spent $430 million on secure radio systems for 123,000 employees. That includes border agents, port inspectors, and also the TSA and Federal Emergency Management, FEMA, workers.
The radios were supposed to be distributed to employees with one common channel. That would make it easier for agents to communicate with each other. But instead the OIG found, for example that only one person out of 479 could actually access that common channel. Most didn’t even know a specific common channel existed.
The auditors concluded that Homeland Security agents do not have a reliable means of communicating in either routine operations or in emergencies.
In response, Homeland Security agreed it needs to address the problem. But it disagreed that it needs a new management office to oversee that they actually work properly.