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FBI Radio Privacy Program Runs Over Budget, Report Says

March 26, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ An FBI program to protect its radio messages from eavesdropping criminals, spies and others is facing large cost overruns and is far behind schedule, according to a report released Wednesday.

The General Accounting Office report said cost estimates for the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s new nationwide system grew by 150 percent in two years: from $79 million in January 1982 to $204 million in January 1984.

The FBI still estimates the system’s cost at $204 million, but the GAO report said that figure ″appears to be unrealistic.″

The FBI rejected the report’s conclusions that the system has been sidetracked by cost overruns and construction delays.

″To the contrary it responds to a known and well documented threat to federal law enforcment efforts,″ said FBI spokeswoman Sue Schnitzer.

The report by the congressional watchdog agency said the FBI recognized the project covering 59 field offices was ambitious but developed no long-range plan. Parts of the system are two years behind schedule.

″The FBI did not adequately analyze its needs before contracting for and acquiring its DVP (digital voice privacy) system,″ the report said.

The program was initiated in 1982 and was expanded in August 1985 to integrate into one system the voice privacy systems of the FBI and those being developed by the Drug Enforcement Agency and the U.S. Marshals Service.

The integrated system is to be completed in 1992, but the GAO said it also may become plagued with cost overruns and construction delays.

″Nearly a year and a half after initiating this project, the FBI does not have firm cost and time estimates,″ the GAO said.

Schnitzer said delays have occurred in some offices because special needs have arisen unexpectedly in other offices. Responding to those needs, she said, has resulted in some cases to completing construction ahead of schedule.

″The demands that drive the system change over time. It has to be flexible,″ she said.

She noted that systems are in use in 36 field offices, where about 84 percent of the bureau’s more than 9,000 agents are based. Systems have been completed in Washington, New York and Los Angeles.

Since the original cost estimates were made in 1982, the FBI has added about 1,400 agents and more than 950 vehicles requiring mobile radios, she said. In addition, investigative priorities have changed, which has required modifying the original plans for the field office systems, she said.

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