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The State of Washington has announced its intention to procure a multi-million dollar proprietary Motorola digital radio system without the benefit of a solid business plan or competitive procurement.  The purchase is being made under the guise of the Federal government mandate for narrowband radio operation by 2013.

The State appears to intend to omit some of the most basic steps required for a successful large-scale radio project by short-circuiting a competitive vendor selection process that would include strong terms and conditions related to system performance and reliability.  Instead of an open and fair process, the State has opted to spend approximately $54 million to augment a relatively small Motorola P25 radio system owned by the Federal government. There is no evidence of an independent needs assessment or detailed engineering study having been performed to support this decision.

The proposed radio system will replace the Washington State Patrol’s analog VHF radio system.

The new system reportedly will use proprietary Motorola encryption algorithms, effectively locking out competitors from providing mobile and portable subscriber radios.  Budget documents show the State intends to pay as much as $7000 for each mobile and portable radio!

Questions to ask:

  • Will civil work such as radio site improvements involving the building trades also be sole sourced to Motorola?  If yes, what is the State’s justification to do so?
  • Will contracts for microwave backhaul equipment and installation services needed to support the radio system be bundled with the digital radio contract and awarded to Motorola?
  • Has the State considered that P25 digital trunked radio technology will eventually be made obsolete by broadband alternatives?

Was the decision to award this no-bid contract to Motorola made as a result of Motorola exerting political influence?

This project will be worthy of future scrutiny, as it almost certainly will be plagued with technical deficiencies, cost overruns and political posturing to cover the apparent improprieties.


Washington State Patrol 2011-13 Narrowbanding Funding
Components  Transportation Budget ESSB 1175
Microwave infrastructure and site Improvements $8,300,000
7 Dispatch consoles $3,500,000
3 Master sites /switches $3,200,000
Sales tax on above (9.5%) $636,500
550 P25 portable radios (1,100) $4,000,000
Land Mobile Radio Infrastructure $8,000,000
System Integration and Engineering $10,200,000
Sales tax on above (9.5%) $2,109,000
Narrowbanding Totals $39,945,500