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House Committee Letter to DOI OIG

 March 9, 2021 


The Honorable Mark Lee Greenblatt 

Inspector General 

U.S. Department of the Interior 

1849 C Street N.W. 

Washington, D.C. 20240 


Dear Mr. Greenblatt: 

 

 The missions of law enforcement units at the Department of the Interior (DOI) require public safety professionals to respond to crimes, conduct search and rescue missions, fight fires, and provide emergency medical services, among many other essential activities. Reliable and effective radio communications networks are essential to ensure the success of these missions, as well as the safety of DOI’s public safety professionals. 


 At the September 29, 2020 Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing entitled, Police Cameras at the Department of the Interior: Inconsistencies, Failures, and Consequences, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA) testified about ongoing issues with radio communications networks across DOI agencies.1 According to that testimony, a thorough review of these issues has not occurred since critical failures in DOI radio communication networks were identified by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) in 2007. 


 The 2007 OIG report found that, among other things:2 

  •  ". . . (DOI) has an unsafe and unreliable radio communications environment that jeopardizes the health and safety of DOI employees and the public.” 
  •  "Without fundamental changes to the radio communications program, DOI will continue to jeopardize the safety of its employees and the public and squander resources.” 
  •  "DOI has over 100 radio sites in extremely poor or hazardous condition, which pose an immediate risk of injury or death to employees and the public.”
  • "The results of this audit demonstrate that radio communications in DOI are unsafe and unreliable because: The poorly maintained infrastructure poses physical safety hazards and does not support reliable communications.” 

 

A limited-scope 2017 OIG verification review found that the recommendations from the 2007 report were resolved, implemented, and closed. However, the OIG’s review "did not test internal controls, visit sites, or conduct fieldwork to determine whether the underlying deficiencies that [the OIG] initially identified have been corrected.”3 Further, the OIG did not consider whether the evolution of radio technology and management over the last 14 years warrants another full audit. 

 

The Committee is pleased to see "Radio Communications” listed as a discretionary activity for the OIG’s Audits, Inspections, and Evaluations Work Plan for FY 2021-2022. We request, however, that the OIG include this audit as a requested activity to conduct a new, full review, similar in structure to the 2007 audit, but which also seeks to understand any new challenges. New challenges may include the impact of broadband expansion on radio communications and whether past funding streams for DOI radio infrastructure improvements since 2007 have been used for their intended purposes, whether future funding streams for such improvements are adequately planned, and a determination of the technologies, including their country of origin, needed for such improvements. 

 

Sincerely, 

 

 

Raúl M. Grijalva

Chair 

Committee on Natural Resources


Bruce Westerman 

Ranking Member 

Committee on Natural Resources 

 


 

 


 1Cosme, Larry J., Testimony on Police Cameras at the Department of the Interior: Inconsistencies, Failures, and Consequences, September 29, 2020. Accessible at https://naturalresources.house.gov/imo/media/doc/Mr.%20Larry%20Cosme%20-%20Testimony%20-%20O&I%20Ov%20Hrg%2009.25.20%20(DOI%20Police%20Cameras).pdf 

2OIG audit report: U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of the Interior Radio Communications Program, 2007.  

3 U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of Inspector General, Memorandum: Verification Review – 

Recommendations for the Report, "Department of the Interior’s Radio Communications Program” (Audit No. C-IN-MOA-0007-2005) Report No. 2017-CR-008 (April 2017).