$800 Million Radio System Doesn’t Work

The government does a remarkable job of throwing good money after bad when it comes to projects. In April, we highlighted the unemployment compensation system that was $60 million over budget and still is not functional. Last week, the Senate got an update about another project that is more vital and even further over budget.

In 1996, a project began to create a unified radio network for the State Police and other agencies across the Commonwealth. The initial budget was $179 million. To date, taxpayers have spent over $800 million, and the system still doesn’t work right. According to The Daily Item:

"The shortcomings of the existing system were brought to light once again during the 2014 search for Eric Frein, the sniper who killed a state police trooper and wounded another outside a state police barracks in Pike County. During the manhunt for Frein, troopers could not depend on their portable radios to communicate, Stackhouse said.

"The problems with the radios mean that there are times when troopers exit their cruisers and find they can’t communicate with dispatchers, she said… There also are problems with communicating with other emergency responders who use radio systems that are incompatible with the state police’s current system.

"State Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Luzerne County, reported a similar experience when she was in an emergency management vehicle in northeastern Pennsylvania during Hurricane Sandy. The officials in the EMA vehicle couldn’t contact a state police cruiser within sight of them because of radio problems, she said." (Emphasis added)

To date, there has not been any attempt by the Commonwealth to go back to the original vendors or project managers to get taxpayer money refunded. Instead officials have continued to go back to the well and draw more money from taxpayers’ pockets. Based on the types of questions now being asked at hearings, it would appear that lawmakers are finally starting to change the culture of unaccountability, but there is still a long way to go.