Proviso on SLERS could set precedent in future procurement process for all state agencies

Police patrol car radio equipment and microphone. Walkie-talkie.
Motorola won the contract, but the Legislature is giving L3Harris the job anyway.

The House earlier this week agreed to a Senate plan to forgo the bidding process on a next-generation police radio system and the vendor who at one point held the contract is calling the deal a preemption on state agencies.

Budget language proposed by the Senate would send L3Harris — the current operator of the Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System — as much as $460 million to continue running the system and break ground on its next-generation replacement.

The move comes after L3Harris lost out to Motorola Solutions in a competitive bidding process to design and build the new system.

After Motorola Solutions won the contract L3Harris challenged the procurement in court while holding hostage the radio towers that underpin SLERS. A court affirmed their right to do so because, despite the towers being built by the state, the company formerly known as Harris Corp., held a long-term lease that gave it exclusive control over the towers.

The suit effectively killed the deal between Motorola Solutions and the Department of Management Services, and the much-needed SLERS upgrade has been in limbo ever since.

The 2021-22 budget, however, directs DMS to enter into a 15-year, $19 million-a-year contract with L3Harris — or, the “current vendor” per proviso language — and provides them with $165 million in nonrecurring funding to upgrade the system and replace the 6,500 or so radio units currently in service. The company would also receive $12.5 million a year in tower lease payments.

Motorola Solutions says the plan flouts the procurement process at state agencies to the detriment of not only its business, but the police and other first responders who rely on the radio system to perform their duties safely.

“The State of Florida has always supported a fair and open procurement process related to the selection of vendors. 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,” a Motorola Solutions spokesperson said in a statement to Florida Politics.

“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.”

The statement is Motorola Solutions’ first comment since the Senate plan was unveiled shortly after the Legislature commenced budget conferences.

Before then, Senate President Wilton Simpson had indicated his chamber would play hardball to pull the SLERS project out of purgatory. Senate budgeters originally nixed all funding for SLERS, with Simpson saying the chamber “would not negotiate under duress.”

Despite his statement, L3Harris’ no-bid contract is all but certain.

Drew Wilson

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.


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