Florida Legislature Directs DMS to Award L3Harris 15-Year Contract for Radio Network Upgrade
“In recognition of the critical nature of the statewide law enforcement radio communications system, the legislature finds that there is an immediate danger to public health, safety and welfare and that it is in the best interest of the state to continue partnering with the system’s current operator, ”the legislation said. “The legislature finds that continuity of coverage is critical to supporting law enforcement, first responders and other public-safety users. The potential for a loss in coverage or a lack of interoperability between users requires emergency action and is a serious concern for officers’ safety and their ability to communicate and respond to various disasters and events. ”
The bill directs the DMS to enter into a contract with L3Harris that must include the purchase of radios; an upgrade of the system to Project 25 (P25); increased system capacity and enhanced coverage for system users; operations, maintenance and support at a fixed annual rate; the conveyance of towers to the department; and the assignment of communications tower leases to the department.
The state first began the procurement process for a new SLERS network in 2016 and selected Motorola Solutions to provide the new network in 2018. At that time, Harris, which has since merged with L3 Technologies to become L3Harris, protested the award of the contract to Motorola to several courts. All of those protests were denied.
As part of those protests, L3Harris argued that Motorola and the state would not be able to use certain towers that it said the state had conveyed to Harris as part of the original SLERS network. With the new budget, the state appears to be taking steps and allocating funding to address this issue.
The state’s 2021 budget allocates a variety of funds to the network. There is the $ 19 million slated to pay for maintenance and system support for the network, as well as another $ 12.5 million budgeted to pay for the assignment of radio tower leases from L3Harris to the DMS. If the cost of the radio tower leases is different from that number, the bill directs the DMS to submit a budget amendment. Like the $ 19 million operation costs, the bill identifies the tower cost as an annual cost. Over the course of a 15-year contract, that would amount to $ 187.5 million.
The budget also includes several non-recurring funds related to the network. First, the budget allocates $ 54.5 million to replace 6,465 portable radios and 6,214 mobile radios for state agencies that operate on the network. The bill requires that all purchased radios be able to operate in dual mode on both P25 Phase 2 and EDACS systems and have an option to be FirstNet certified for LTE connectivity.
The bill requires the Florida DMS to develop an implementation plan that identifies the number and type of radios that need to be replaced for each eligible agency and a timeline for completing that replacement.
One other non-recurring cost included in the bill is $ 111,000,000 to upgrade the current SLERS system to be P25 compliant. Additionally, the system must be interoperable with FirstNet upon availability and provide for expanded capacity enhanced coverage. Those particular funds can also be used to offset operations and maintenance costs of the systems.
All those numbers combined would lead to an estimated cost of about $ 637 million over the 15-year period for the new network.
While L3Harris protests were denied, contract negotiations with Motorola fell apart at the start of 2020. The state’s current contract with L3Harris is scheduled to expire June 30, and the state and the vendor have been negotiating a new contract over the last few months.
The budget bill as well as the bill implementing the budget was approved by both the Florida Senate and Florida House of Representatives April 30, and both are awaiting a signature from Governor Ron DeSantis.
A Harris spokesperson declined to comment on the status of the negotiations.
In a statement, Motorola questioned the state moving forward with a non-competitive procurement process for the network.
“The State of Florida has always supported a fair and open procurement process related to the selection of vendors,” Motorola’s statement said. “The Department of Management Services (DMS) has invested time and money in a thorough, transparent and competitive process related to the procurement of the new Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System that will provide the most advanced radio system for first responders and the best return on investment of tax dollars. Circumventing the state’s own procurement process and attempting to interrupt a competitive bid through proviso would do a grave disservice to the first responders who rely on mission-critical radio communications to save lives and protect our communities each and every day. The selection of the most qualified and experienced vendor is essential to the safety of all Floridians for decades to come. ”
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