Systems integrator General Dynamics C4 Systems yesterday announced it has been chosen by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to build a proposed multibillion-dollar Integrated Wireless Network (IWN) for federal field agents, but questions remain whether the interoperable communications system will be realized.

As envisioned, the IWN program is a joint effort of DOJ, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Treasury to pool resources to efficiently integrate voice, video and data communications for a variety of federal agents. One of the most desired federal projects in the communications field in recent years, the IWN contract has been estimated to be worth $5 billion to $30 billion over the next 15 years.

DOJ officials selected Arizona-based General Dynamics C4 Systems over a Lockheed Martin team in the third selection phase to implement the potentially lucrative contract. Companies that are part of the General Dynamics C4 Systems team include General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, General Dynamics Information Technology, IBM, M/A-COM, Nortel Government Solutions and Verizon Wireless.

General Dynamics C4 Systems’ proposal calls for land mobile radio to be used for mission-critical voice communications, while multiple other technologies—commercial wireless, satellite phones and mesh networking—could be included, according to Jeff Osman, executive program manager for General Dynamic’s IWN team.

“We have proposed a mix of technologies that the customer can go forward with to meet its operational needs,” Osman said in an e-mail response to MRT. “It's difficult to project which of these technologies the government will want to include in the final IWN solution.”

However, whether General Dynamics will get to implement the IWN program is uncertain. Last month, DOJ Inspector General Glenn Fine issued an audit stating that IWN is “at a high risk of failure.” Problems cited in the report included uncertain funding sources, an absence of effective governance and a “fractured” partnership between the federal agencies participating in the project.

In particular, Fine noted a perceived lack of interest by DHS, which has pursued other communications solutions—most notably, the Secure Border Initiative (SBI) network—amid a high personnel turnover rate within its department.

Osman declined to comment on the inspector general audit or any speculation regarding the future of IWN.