The Wrap: Another Motorola “monkey wrench” would put profits ahead of public safety

by | May 23, 2021

Every weekend, we take a look at the news stories shaping the conversations in Florida’s business, policy and political worlds. Here’s this weekend’s Capitolist wrap-up, which we call “The Wrap.”

Motorola begs DeSantis to use his line-item veto power to block radios for law enforcement officers

After years of negotiation, litigation, and legislation, the finish line is finally in sight for a refreshed Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System (SLERS). State law enforcement leaders have long sought a deal that would refresh its aging communications network and deliver new high-tech radio handsets to first responders across Florida’s vast landscape. They’re now just a signature from Governor Ron DeSantis away.

But Motorola Solutions, a vendor that only a little over a year ago was sitting atop a $687.8 million contract to do the job, is now begging DeSantis to veto what has become a significantly more affordable deal with L3Harris, one of Motorola’s primary competitors. Motorola is pulling out all the stops in a last-ditch effort to sabotage the deal so that they can sell the state some of their own radio handsets and make a few extra bucks.

“Signing the budget with line items and provisos that were quietly negotiated between the incumbent vendor and the legislature will result in a bad deal for taxpayers and a dangerous situation for Florida’s first responders,” wrote Motorola Solutions CEO Greg Brown, in a letter to DeSantis asking for a line-item veto of key provisions in the deal.

Motorola’s letter smacks of both arrogance and desperation. They walked away from an existing deal that would have paid them significantly more than the amount L3Harris will receive. The DeSantis Administration already made its position rather clear in a succinct letter from the Florida Department of Management Services to Motorola’s CEO back in January 2020 that they “diligently worked with Motorola” to execute a contract for the Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System, but:

“Unfortunately, Motorola has opted not to execute the contract the Department sent on December 23, 2019…”

In other words, Motorola wasn’t content with a $688 million deal, and now that a competitor is offering to do the job for significantly less, they are seeking to squeeze anything they can out of Florida’s state budget.

The good news is that lawmakers and law enforcement officials alike appear to have finally grown weary of Motorola’s games and attempts to sabotage the procurement process. Hopefully, DeSantis isn’t swayed by this last-ditch effort to make a few bucks at the expense of further delays for law enforcement officers and emergency responders just as hurricane season is about to get underway.

Law enforcement leaders have repeatedly pointed out that further delays in the procurement process are the real danger to first responders. Earlier this year, Florida’s Highway Patrol Director, Colonel Gene Spaulding, pulled no punches about the level of desperation to have a deal in place that would start delivering upgrades to the current system.

“It would not be an exaggeration to assert that Florida’s first responders and the public will be at risk should they be required to go another year with obsolete equipment or without a fully functional and properly maintained radio system,” Spaulding said. “The State Law Enforcement Radio System Joint Task Force respectfully and strongly urges the members of the Florida Legislature to support Florida’s state law enforcement agencies’ fiscal year 2021-22 funding requests for land mobile radio equipment and the ongoing operation of the current radio system.”

Under the budget approved by the Florida Legislature, the “current operator,” which is L3Harris, would receive a 15-year contract to refresh the SLERS network and provide upgraded handsets to modernize existing capabilities. In addition, legislative language in the budget outlines a need for “emergency action,” which was necessitated because the existing contract with L3 Harris expires on June 30th, a problem last summer’s ill-fated Motorola contract was designed to fix.

DeSantis would be wise to ignore Motorola’s desperation ploy and move forward with the deal the legislature put together, rather than allowing Motorola to toss another monkey wrench into the process.


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