National Radio Network Board Asks for a Procurement Probe

The head of the U.S. authority building a radio system for firefighters and other emergency workers that could cost as much as $40 billion said he asked the Commerce Department’s inspector general to investigate procurement by the program.

Sam Ginn, chairman of the First Responder Network Authority, made the announcement today during a meeting of the entity’s board. The authority is building a national system to avoid communications failures like those that plagued emergency workers during the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Ginn said he wants the authority to cooperate as the inspector general follows complaints raised in April by Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald of Story County, Iowa.

“A faction led by industry members of this board proceeds without us,” Fitzgerald said, according to a copy of his remarks distributed by e-mail.

The group’s board has meetings and conference calls that aren’t publicly announced or disclosed, and aren’t subject to public observation, Fitzgerald said.

Requesting action by the inspector general is “really due to the complicated nature of procurement,” Ginn said during the meeting held via a telephone conference call.

The U.S. is planning to build the network, know as FirstNet, to supplant today’s patchwork of municipal emergency radio systems that impedes communication between agencies.

The U.S. government has dedicated $7 billion to FirstNet’s construction, and the total expenditure has been estimated at $18 billion to $40 billion, which doesn’t include the cost of radios, according to a report last year by the Congressional Research Service.

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