DHS Solicits Information on Next-Generation Tactical Broadband (8/8/12)
As part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plans to move to broadband networks, the agency released a broad agency announcement (BAA) for next-generation tactical wireless broadband communications.
DHS recently awarded a $3 billion tactical communications (TacCom) contract to upgrade and maintain its current two-way radio network. “However, much of the TacCom equipment in use has surpassed its expected service life and does not provide sufficient coverage, capacity or encryption to meet DHS mission needs,” said the BAA. “While several DHS components have been working to modernize TacCom infrastructure and equipment, recent developments have prompted a re-evaluation of the current modernization approach.”
That evaluation includes five items. Expanded wireless mission needs include requirements for data and video in addition to mission-critical voice. Spectrum scarcity at VHF used in current TacCom networks must be evaluated. DHS said the current approach of moving to the Project 25 (P25) standard provides limited interoperability improvements. Subscriber radios have become increasingly complex for users, with potential for hundreds of channels and configuration options, causing operational challenges. And the traditional model of owning and operating multiple private TacCom systems carries a multibillion dollar price tag across the department.
“This model must give way to an approach that allows for cost sharing across a broader user base targeting reduced capital investment and lifecycle costs by leveraging networks owned by others,” the BAA said. “Use of a subscription model reduces the ownership and operating costs by sharing the network ownership costs across a wider user base.”
The DHS Science & Technology (S&T) mission is to conduct, for homeland security purposes, research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) and timely transition of tactical communications capabilities to operational units within DHS, as well as local, state, federal and operational end users in critical infrastructure. DHS S&T invests in programs offering the potential for changes in technologies that promote homeland security and accelerate the prototyping and demonstration in an operational environment of technologies that reduce homeland vulnerabilities.
Research opportunities are in four areas: LMR over broadband, broadband services to tactical users, remote radio management, and interconnecting public-safety and commercial networks.
This BAA alerts potential contributors that S&T seeks DHS enterprisewide solutions that may address other federal agencies in addition to local, state and tribal entities. The due date for vendor questions is Aug. 17. White papers are due Sept 7. Notification of white paper evaluation results is Oct. 19, and proposals from offerors whose white papers are deemed “of particular value” are due Nov. 26.
Earlier this year, DHS stood up a new office to oversee wireless tactical communications including mission-critical voice, data and video on a common broadband network. Officials said in the long term, DHS intends to completely transition to commercial technologies and standards-based Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks.
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