Motorola Solutions: No-bid award to L3Harris for Florida P25 system a ‘grave disservice’ to first responders
A Florida Legislature mandate to bypass an ongoing procurement process and award L3Harris Technologies a contract worth more than $400 million to upgrade the statewide radio network to P25 “would do a grave disservice” to Florida first responders, according to Motorola Solutions, which was offered a contract for the project last year.
At issue is the Florida’s Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System (SLERS), which the state’s Department of Management Services (DMS) has planned to upgrade from the aging EDACS technology to P25 Phase 2—a project dubbed SLERS-2. Motorola Solutions won the initial SLERS-2 procurement but declined to sign a contract, the state announced in January 2020. DMS already has initiated a second SLERS-2 procurement, with the deadline for bid submittal set for next Tuesday, May 11.
Citing the need for “emergency action,” the Florida House and Senate last week approved a $101.5 billion budget that included language directing DMS to award the SLERS-2 project to Florida-based L3Harris, the vendor of the current EDACS-based SLERS system under a contract that is due to expire in less than two months, on June 30.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has line-item veto power, still must sign the budget to enact the SLERS-2 provisions, which also require the P25 system to support interoperability with the LTE-based FirstNet public-safety broadband network. Motorola Solutions expressed concern about the possibility in a statement the company provided to IWCE’s Urgent Communications.
“The State of Florida has always supported a fair and open procurement process related to the selection of vendors,” according to the Motorola Solutions statement. “The Department of Management Services (DMS) has invested time and money in a thorough, transparent and competitive process related to the procurement of the new Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System that will provide the most advanced radio system for first responders and the best return on investment of tax dollars.
“Circumventing the state’s own procurement process and attempting to interrupt a competitive bid through proviso would do a grave disservice to the first responders who rely on mission-critical radio communications to save lives and protect our communities each and every day. The selection of the most qualified and experienced vendor is essential to the safety of all Floridians for decades to come.”
If DeSantis signs the proposed budget, the SLERS-2 language would appear to make the ongoing procurement for the statewide P25 system unnecessary. However, the procurement process will continue to proceed until DeSantis signs the budget, according to sources familiar with the situation. If DeSantis approves the budget with the SLERS-2 language in the next few days, it is unclear whether DMS could halt the existing procurement before vendors submit their bids by next Tuesday’s deadline.
Although DMS initiated a new SLERS-2 procurement, but many were concerned that the bidding process would fail to yield a system in a timely manner—the result of the previous SLERS-2 procurement and contract cycle.
According to the SLERS-2 business case prepared by Federal Engineering, the best-case-scenario timeline for SLERS-2 calls for the system to be operational during the latter half of 2026—a timeline that does not include delays for protests or other reasons. Many sources within Florida have questioned whether the existing SLERS—the last EDACS EA system in world, according to L3Harris—could be maintained to provide effective mission-critical voice communications for that long.
Presumably with this in mind, lawmakers opted to forego a procurement and have incumbent SLERS vendor L3Harris build the network, as explained in the budget language.
“In recognition of the critical nature of the statewide law-enforcement radio communications system, the Legislature finds that there is an immediate danger to the public health, safety, and welfare, and that it is in the best interest of the state to continue partnering with the system’s current operator,” the legislation states. “The Legislature finds that continuity of coverage is critical to supporting law enforcement, first responders, and other public-safety users. The potential for a loss in coverage or a lack of interoperability between users requires emergency action and is a serious concern for officers’ safety and their ability to communicate and respond to various disasters and events.
“The department [DMS] … shall enter into a 15-year contract with the entity that was operating the statewide radio communications system on January 1, 2021. The contract must include:
“1. The purchase of radios;
“2. The upgrade to the Project 25 communications standard;
“3. Increased system capacity and enhanced coverage for system users;
“4. Operations, maintenance, and support at a fixed annual rate;
“5. The conveyance of communications towers to the department; and
“6. The assignment of communications tower leases to the department.”