The House and Senate are now mostly aligned on funding for the Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System’s operation, but new proviso language indicates the Senate is intent on giving a no-bid contract to upgrade the system to the current vendor.
The current year budget included about $21.6 million in SLERS contract payments, but after initially removing the funding, the Senate nearly doubled the total spend for the system in its first offer for the state administration and technology budget.
Overall, the Senate is pitching $200 million for SLERS in the upcoming budget year, including $19 million in contract payments, $12.5 million to lease radio towers, $3.5 million for “increased contracted services” related to the system and $1.5 million for more staff to administer the system at the Department of Management Services.
On Monday, the House’s put forward an offer that matched the Senate on SLERS operational funding, but the chambers are still in disagreement over proviso language that would dodge a competitive bidding process and award the contract to L3Harris.
The Senate proposal sets aside another $165 million that would greenlight L3Harris to upgrade SLERS and replace thousands of radio units.
The language calling for new radio units requires them to be compatible with the current system as well as the new P25 system. Unlike other SLERS proviso, the $54.5 million budget doesn’t mandate the radios come from “the current operator” — but only because it likely doesn’t have to for L3Harris to benefit.
The current SLERS system runs on the “Enhanced Digital Access Communication System,” or EDACS. EDACS is a proprietary standard offered by L3Harris and is considered obsolete.
Language directing DMS to upgrade to P25 does specify that the up-to-$111 million pot of money must be used for a contract with “the current operator.”
The House offer includes neither the $111 million upgrade language nor the $54.5 million radio replacement language.
The Senate’s proposal for Line 410A would direct DMS to use the $19 million in contract payments to “execute a contract with the current operator of the Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System,” which is L3Harris.
One line down, the Senate proviso says the $12.5 million tower lease funding “must be used to pay for the radio tower leases assigned to the Department of Management Services from the current operator of the Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System.” Again, that money would be sent to L3Harris.
Meanwhile, the Senate has not matched House language that would require DMS to hire a consulting company to conduct a review of the beleaguered SLERS project and issue quarterly reports on the efforts to replace it.
The House proposal, spelled out on Line 393, would provide about $1.35 million for the contract and require that the quarterly updates be delivered to the House and Senate appropriations chairs as well as the Governor’s office and the Florida Digital Service.
The Senate’s competing language would use $1.5 million to increase staff at DMS “to assist the department for the assumption of towers and tower leases relating to the Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System.”
During a Monday evening meeting, the budget conference committee announced that all SLERS items would be bumped up to the budget chiefs, House Appropriations Chair Jay Trumbull and Senate Appropriations Chair Kelli Stargel.
The development indicates L3Harris, formerly Harris Corp., will almost certainly be rewarded with a new SLERS contract after it spent the past few years sabotaging the buildout of a new system after DMS selected a competitor, Motorola Solutions, to design the next-gen system.
Motorola was awarded the SLERS contract in 2018, but L3Harris immediately challenged the decision.
In a lawsuit, L3Harris exerted exclusive rights to operate the towers that serve as the backbone to SLERS. It argued that the state could not let Motorola Solutions use the towers without L3Harris’ consent. And, as the suit made clear, the company would in no way consent.
Mired in the courts, the project’s deadline came and went. By mid-2020, Motorola and the Florida Department of Management Services went their separate ways.