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U.S. marshals lose track of radios worth millions

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By Reuters
Monday, July 22, 2013, 6:45 p.m.

WASHINGTON —The U.S. Marshals Service has lost track of about 2,000 encrypted two-way radios worth millions of dollars, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing internal records it had obtained through a public records request.

The problems date to at least 2011, when the marshals were deploying new versions of the radios to communicate in the field.

An internal technology office had warned about the issue, but the problems tracking the equipment persisted.

“It is apparent that negligence and incompetence has resulted in a grievous mismanagement of millions of dollars of USMS property,” the paper quoted a 2011 presentation by the agency's Office of Strategic Technology as saying.

“Simply put, the entire system is broken, and drastic measures need to be taken to address the issues ... The 800-pound elephant in the room needs to finally be acknowledged.”

Marshals protect federal courts and judges. It administers the witness protection program and tracks down fugitives.

In interviews, marshals told the Wall Street Journal they were worried not only about the wasted money, but about the prospect of criminals getting hold of the radios and using them to gain access to privileged law enforcement activities.

Marshals service spokesman Drew Wade confirmed the paper's report late Sunday and said the agency is doing a “complete review” of the radio inventory.

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