Wasserman Schultz has pushed the Capitol Police to take steps toward overhauling its radio system. The department is now testing the new system.
The Reagan-era radio system used by the Capitol Police is moving a step closer to a long-overdue overhaul as a team of officers begins testing the modern radio system Congress has invested $105 million into building.
It’s been 12 years since 9/11 exposed the communications problems in the current radio system, including dead spots around congressional buildings and non-encrypted channels that can be monitored via cheap police scanners. The scope, scale and cost of the overhaul have continued to mount ever since.
“While I’m pleased that the Capitol Police radios are finally in the testing phase, the continued delays in schedule have been unacceptable,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., ranking member of the Appropriations Legislative Branch Subcommittee, in a statement. “Appropriations have been provided dating back to my time as Chair of the Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee in 2007. Six years later, and we’re still only in the testing phase when officers should already have new radios.”
“I am asking you a direct question,” Wasserman Schultz said then. “Is it likely, do you think, we are going to go beyond the fall of 2013?”
At the time, she received no answer.
Nov. 11 is the latest addition to the implementation timeline.
By then, a small crew of engineers aims to access every interior space of the Capitol, including each room within House office suites, to test the new radio system, according to a memo from House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul D. Irving. Sources familiar with the project say Senate office buildings and pedestrian and subway tunnels connecting the Capitol complex will also be tested for compatibility with the new 14-channel encrypted digital radio system.
Testing is projected to take less than one minute per room and is being performed during normal business hours to accurately account for interference that would could pose problems when the system is implemented.
The tests are a “routine part of the project plan and a necessary process to move forward with implementation of the new system,” department spokeswoman Lt. Kimberly Schneider said in a statement to CQ Roll Call.
When asked when police will begin to reap the benefits of the long-delayed, multiyear modernization, Schneider did not have an estimate. The department is also silent on the next step in the implementation process.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.