Upgraded Radios for Capitol Police Ready Next Year, Chief Says

Posted March 22, 2012 at 4:34pm

An upgraded radio system for the Capitol Police, a multimillion-dollar project several years in the making, will be ready by the spring or summer of next year, Chief Phillip Morse said today.

Morse told the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch the news at a hearing this afternoon, where he also defended his overall budget request for fiscal 2013.

“I feel like right now we are in a very good place with this project,” Morse told subcommittee Chairman Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and ranking member John Hoeven (R-N.D.), adding that he recently visited with the contractor overseeing the project’s design and implementation.

The Capitol Police have been lobbying lawmakers for five years to allocate funds to replace their decades-old radio system, an analog system that they say is plagued with age-related bugs such as insecure connections and dead spots in certain parts of the Capitol complex.

Officials say a new radio system is critical to efficient operations and overall security for lawmakers, staff and visitors to Capitol Hill.

When the Capitol Police first raised the possibility of getting funding for new police radios in 2007, the cost was estimated at $35 million with a three-year completion timetable.

But progress was slower than predicted and estimated costs were higher.

Appropriators balked at the rising price tag, at one point threatening to halt the project and launching an investigation of how the cost estimates were determined.

But the project got off the ground in 2009 when lawmakers included about $70 million for the radios in a supplemental spending bill funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.