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Protest delays FBI’s huge sole-source deal with Motorola

WASHINGTON — A protest by a small two-way radio manufacturer has stalled an FBI plan to hand a sole-source contract worth up to $500 million to emergency communications giant Motorola Solutions Inc., mainly to upgrade the bureau’s 30-year-old network.

FBI contracting officials contend that proprietary features embedded in their existing Motorola network preclude its interaction with non-Motorola products.

Citing a 15-year-old estimate that replacing the entire system from another vendor’s product would cost $1.2 billion, they said in a formal notice this month that they can save $300 million in equipment by continuing an exclusive relationship with Motorola.

The bureau circulated the proposal two weeks ago, just as three senior House Democrats asked the Department of Homeland Security’s internal watchdog to investigate whether Motorola’s contracting tactics have led state and local governments to squander millions of taxpayer dollars on its pricey equipment.

RELM Wireless Corp., a Florida-based radio manufacturer with $30 million in annual revenues, promptly challenged the FBI proposal on grounds that it “unjustly bars competition” for the sale of radios.

The firm sells walkie-talkies with the same functions specified by the FBI for about $1,700, compared with Motorola’s average price of $4,200, said Ken Klyberg, RELM’s vice president for sales.

He said in a telephone interview that RELM is preparing to file a formal protest with the Government Accountability Office.


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