Business Case Estimates Deployment of New Florida SLERS Network Will Take 4-6 Years
Tuesday, December 29, 2020 | Comments
A business case for the replacement for the Florida Statewide Law Enforcement Radio Systems (SLERS) estimated that implementation of the new system will take approximately four-to-six years. Therefore, the business case said it is critical that the state develop a transition and support plan that will allow the current network to support users through that implementation.

“The most significant risks for the SLERS transition is the age and proprietary nature of the current SLERS network equipment,” said the business case, which was prepared by Federal Engineering. “Most of the SLERS radio, dispatch and microwave equipment is either near or past end of lifecycle in terms of guaranteed manufacturer support. … Therefore, continued support past 2021 is a significant concern given that this (EDACS) is a subset of proprietary technology and has very limited markets for potential secondary (used) parts for repairs of existing SLERS equipment and component parts.”

Because of these concerns, the first priority for the state in developing a transition plan between the two networks must be to address supporting the current network. The business case recommended that the state complete its plan for supporting the current SLERS network before beginning solicitation of the new network.

The current SLERS network is maintained and operated by L3Harris Technologies. The contract with L3Harris for the current network is set to expire on June 30. The Florida Department of Management Services (DMS), which is responsible for the network, is currently negotiating a contract extension with L3Harris.

“DMS is attempting to address this need now, though it is likely that the age of the current SLERS equipment may result in a support contract or contracts limited to best effort and reasonable efforts versus guaranteed support, which could result in future impacts to SLERS system uptime and availability,” the business case said.

The business case recommended that a new maintenance and support contract for the current SLERS contract extend through at least 2025.

The business case estimates that solicitation documents for the new network will be completed by February. The acquisition phase is then expected to continue from July to September, and then between October and June 2022, DMS will evaluate vendor proposals, conduct best and final offer (BAFO) presentations, negotiate a contract and finalize that contract.

Following that process, initial implementation processes would begin in July 2022, with full implementation complete sometime in 2026 and 2027. The business case said that the system will likely be implemented in a phased approach across different regions of the state. The case estimated that acceptance testing for the first regions would begin during the late summer or early fall of 2024 and conclude near the end of 2024. User migration would begin sometime around that point. The rest of the regions would follow in 2026 and 2027.

Besides the timeline, the business case addressed several other keys issues including the type of network model the state should pursue, funding for the network upgrade and expanding network access to users besides law enforcement.

The business case presented two main options for the new network: an outsourced network or a hybrid network. The current SLERS network is an outsourced network in that a third-party vendor builds out the network and then owns, operates and maintains the network while charging fees for system access. Under a hybrid model, the state would own the network and would be responsible for some of the maintenance and operations while contracting for some of those other services.

“Given that the state has operated in the outsourced model for the entirety of the SLERS lifecycle, this model would be the easiest model for the state to deploy quickly, which is a key consideration given the end-of-life status of the current SLERS network,” the business case said.

The business case also looked at the best technology options for the network, including next-generation technologies such as broadband, and determined that the network should be based on Project 25 (P25) technology with the ability to incorporate new technologies such as push-to-talk over cellular (PoC).

Additionally, the business case recommended that the state open the network to other public-safety users beyond law enforcement in order to further interoperability with other public-safety users and take advantage of resources those other agencies may have.

An analysis done by Federal Engineering found that the initial capital deployment costs would be around $236 million and the 10-year total cost of ownership (TCO) would be $538 million for the outsourced model. For the hybrid model, the capital costs would be $436 million and the 10-year TCO would be approximately $815 million.

The analysis also determined that the outsourced model would have the lowest funding gap over the 10-year lifecycle of the new network.

SLERS is currently funded by a $1 license surcharge and a $3 ticket surcharge. DMS estimated that the revenue from those sources would be around $308 million over a 10-year period from fiscal year 2021 to fiscal year 2031. One concern is that the $3 ticket surcharge sunsets on June 30. If that surcharge is not renewed by the state legislature, that would eliminate an estimated $42.3 million in funding for the new SLERS network. The business case also noted that reduced travel because of the COVID-19 pandemic could reduce funds generated by the ticket surcharge.

Under the hybrid model, there would be potential funding deficits in years two, three and six through 10 of the system’s lifecycle. Those deficits would need to be addressed with alternate funding sources, such as legislative funding, new service fees or system access fees for certain groups. The estimated funding gap for the hybrid model is approximately $72 million, the business case said.

Meanwhile, the outsourced model would experience funding deficits in years two, three and four. Those deficits would need to be addressed but under current revenue sources would have enough funding for the remaining years of the lifecycle, the business case said.

“The SLERS system is aging, has limited support and does not meet the current needs of the state or the SLERS user agencies,” the business case said. “SLERS has operated as an outsourced model. Shifting to a more traditional support model with increased DMS staffing and facilities would significantly increase the complexity and, potentially, the duration of the SLERS-2 deployment. Therefore, FE recommends that the state and DMS continue to move forward with an expedited procurement and deployment of SLERS-2 as an outsourced, SaaS model.”

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