Panel may hold hearings on emergency wireless project

A House Homeland Security subcommittee is considering hearings to probe the handling of a project to create an interoperable wireless communications network for police and first responders, congressional sources said this week.

The Subcommittee on Management, Oversight and Investigations has yet to set dates for any hearings, multiple sources said, but is looking into the issue. The subcommittee will focus on $195 million spent by the Justice, Homeland Security and Treasury departments on the Integrated Wireless Network, aimed at helping 81,000 federal law enforcement officers communicate across agencies and with state and local partners.

The project could cost as much as $5 billion through 2021. The Justice Department inspector general recently gave it a critical review, citing "disparate funding mechanisms" and inadequate documentation as initial challenges. In calling for investigative hearings, subcommittee chairman Rep. Christopher Carney, D-Pa., said the project's implementation is "woefully behind schedule."

Homeland Security Department officials are meeting with officials at the Justice and Treasury departments to "talk about the viability" of the program, DHS spokesman Larry Orluskie said Thursday.

He pointed out that DHS has only existed for three of the six years the program has been in development. "IWN started long before there was a DHS," he said.

Orluskie declined to comment on the future of DHS' involvement, saying only that discussions are taking place and no decisions have yet been made.

DHS and the Justice Department are the main stakeholders for the project; Treasury has a smaller number of potential users.

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