The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spent $430 million on an interdepartmental radio program, but very few federal employees with radios know how to use the system correctly, Ars Technica reported. The program, developed over the past nine years, created a common channel that workers across federal departments can use to communicate with each other during emergencies or regular operations. Of 479 DHS employees surveyed by the inspector general's office, only one employee was able to use the common channel, according to a report (pdf).
About 70 percent of those surveyed didn't know about the common channel, while one quarter of respondents knew of the channel but were unable to find it. An additional 3 percent could not find the current common channel, but could locate an old one. The investigators also reported that more than half of the radios did not have the settings for the common channel programmed into the device.
The radio communications program, developed in the wake of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was created to simplify communication between government agencies such as Customs and Border Patrol, the Transportation Security Administration, the Coast Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Secret Service and DHS.