De Blasio Administration Announces Halt To Emergency Communications Technology Project And Orders Immediate Comprehensive Review

May 19, 2014

Action comes after years of cost overruns, delays and errors 
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Comprehensive examination will lay foundation for next generation’s 911 system

NEW YORK—After years of well-documented cost overruns, programmatic delays and technical problems, the de Blasio administration today announced that major work on the Emergency Communications Technology Project will be halted, and the entire project will be thoroughly reviewed in a sweeping multi-agency examination. The review will ensure that the implementation of a new, state-of-the-art 911 system will meet the needs of the city in the future and help keep New Yorkers safe, while avoiding additional wasteful spending and needless delays.

The ordered halt and review came in the form of a directive from First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris and was issued Sunday to the leadership of NYPD, FDNY, the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, the Department of Design and Construction, and the Office of Citywide Emergency Communications. The directive was also shared with the City Comptroller and the Department of Investigations. The de Blasio administration began a thorough review of the ECTP in the administration’s first days in office, including an exploration of the ECTP’s history, scope, budget and the multiple changes to its schedule. Administration officials met with agency sponsors and key stakeholders to enhance their understanding of the project’s current state. As a result of these efforts, the administration’s review uncovered additional technical design, systems integration and project management risks beyond the previously publicly documented challenges. 

“Our number one priority is protecting the safety of all New Yorkers,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “That means not only fixing the problems that have for too long plagued the ECTP, but also addressing new issues that demand immediate corrective action.  The critical steps we are taking today will ensure that the new emergency communications system is operationally, technologically and financially prepared to protect future generations here in New York City.”

The de Blasio administration directive ordered the following steps, effective immediately:

  • The Office of Citywide Emergency Communications, which currently manages the project, will be temporarily assigned to report to the incoming Commissioner of the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications Anne Roest.
  • All major expenditures and major system changes for the project will be halted. Work may continue on some aspects of the project as long as there is no significant fiscal or operational impact.
  • The following guidelines are in effect immediately, regarding actions that may not occur without the specific approval of incoming DoITT Commissioner Anne Roest:
    • No contracts may be awarded or purchase orders issued.
    • No work that would result in additional expenditures against existing contracts may move forward.
    • No major system implementation or major procedural changes may be implemented.
  • DoITT Commissioner Anne Roest will lead a comprehensive project review and assemble an assessment team, with representation from stakeholder agencies and industry experts, to conduct a full-scale review and validation of the project’s scope, schedule, budget, and governance. The project assessment team will submit a set of recommendations in July.
  • The Department of Investigation has been asked to conduct an independent review of what transpired in recent years that has led to the current situation.
  • The administration has asked the City Comptroller to review the history of the projectincluding oversight structure and financial managementto ensure that all appropriate project and financial management controls are in place and have been followed.

“The administration’s review process is the right step to safeguard our emergency communications system, and in turn the people of New York, for years to come,” said Incoming Fire Department Commissioner Daniel Nigro. “The new system’s problems have been well-documented, and we must get this right. The best way to do that is to temporarily halt the project, review it thoroughly, and discover the best way to move forward.”

“Our city has one of the most complex and expansive emergency communications system in the nation, and it is critical that it works both operationally and financially for the people of New York,” said Police Commissioner Bill Bratton. “This review process will be instrumental in helping us build a system that meets the needs of the city and keeps New Yorkers safe.”

“My office’s audit division will focus on lapses in management and financial control, which allowed the cost of the last upgrade of the 911 system to spiral continually upward. Mayor de Blasio is taking the right and necessary steps to make sure the City is not throwing good money after bad and not continuing business as usual on an historically troubled project. The public needs to know that its tax dollars are being spent properly and not wasted through mismanagement, fraud or unnecessary payments to an endless army of consultants,” said Comptroller Scott Stringer.

“I believe the safety and security of all New Yorkers is paramount. This means we need a 911 system that is effective and consistent,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “Today’s steps by the administration to review and address all needs for correction in our Emergency Communications Technology Project are crucial as Mayor de Blasio and I work to make sure we build a state-of-the-art 911 system to serve our future generations.” 

“New Yorkers expect and deserve a 911 system that is efficient, effective and, above all else, works. These steps today will ensure that past mistakes are not repeated and that New York will have the latest technology for our emergency services which will save lives,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

“I applaud the de Blasio administration for taking the necessary steps to build a 911 system that is sustainable for years to come,” said Council Member Vanessa Gibson. “This review process will be critical in guiding a fiscally responsible and effective way forward for the our emergency communications systems, while ensuring the public safety of all New Yorkers.”

“The fire officers of New York City are elated to be dealing with an administration that does not try to scrape complaints under the rug, and when they become aware of a problem, they deal with it,” said Alexander Hagan, President of Uniformed Fire Officers Association. “Going forward, we trust that Mayor de Blasio will ensure an honest examination of the system takes place and enacts whatever changes might be necessary to ensure a more efficient response by all first responders.”

Background

In 2004, the City began the ECTP, a five-year, $1.3 billion dollar project to modernize and consolidate the city’s 911 emergency communication system, the most complex and expansive system in the nation. Since its inception, the Emergency Communications Technology Project has experienced a series of operational, technical, and management issues that, by May 2012, resulted in it being years behind schedule and nearly $1 billion dollars over its initial budget. The Office of Citywide Emergency Communication was established in 2010 to oversee the development and implementation of strategies and initiatives that support the City’s overall emergency communications operations, particularly the delivery of the ECTP. 


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