House Report Slams Homeland Security for Wasteful Spending

By Stew Magnuson
The Department of Homeland Security risks wasting millions of dollars on failed acquisition programs if it doesn’t improve its contracting practices, said a House Homeland Security Committeereportreleased Aug. 1.
“The committee finds the department does not use the necessary tools to ensure rigorous oversight of its acquisition programs including those managed by its component agencies. Specifically, the manner in which DHS manages its acquisition investments has been flawed,” said the investigation, which was conducted by Rep. Michael T. McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the oversight, investigations and management subcommittee.
“The committee concludes that these shortcomings have wasted taxpayer dollars and have had a serious impact on our ability to protect the homeland. Consequently, poorly managed programs have resulted in  capabilities that are delivered late, cost more and do less than expected,” the report continued.
The report breaks little new ground. It cites previously released DHS inspector general and Government Accountability Office reports along with testimony from committee hearings. McCaul stressed that little has changed in the way DHS agencies acquire technologies despite all the GAO and IG recommendations in the past.
It held up as prime examples Custom and Border Protection’s failed Project 28 virtual fence program and the Transportation Security Administration’s trace explosive puffer machines. These failures are well known. The puffer machines program was halted in 2006. However, the report asked whether history will repeat itself, particularly as CBP attempts a smaller scale program to insert more technology on the  southern border.
Not all the failures have to do with advanced technology. CBP when purchasing steel for the physical fence “wasted about $70 million because it purchased more steel than was needed, paid interest on late  payments, and approved a higher-priced subcontractor.”
“Unless DHS improves its requirements, oversight, and performance metrics for this [border] effort, taxpayer dollars may yet again be put at risk,” the report warned.
There have been attempts to put more stringent acquisition processes in place, but the agencies don’t always adhere to the guidelines, the report said. “DHS often allows acquisition programs to move forward without departmental approval of essential planning documents,” the report stated.
The committee had five recommendations:
• Formalize a department-wide process to prevent duplicative procurement by leveraging existing technologies that can meet needs within DHS and throughout the Federal government;
• Require all DHS components to more effectively use strategic sourcing to improve cost savings;
• Create a strategy for improving the quality and capabilities of the DHS acquisition workforce.
• Develop and strengthen a long-term, transparent, and codified acquisitions process that integrates the Science and Technology Directorate, the end user, and the technology developer, to ensure all acquisitions are made with the goals and requirements necessary to deliver a timely and quality product that meaningfully buys down risk; and,
• Continuously assess the risk of using contractors for services as part of the acquisition-planning process, and develop a culture of multi-year strategic planning for long-term development contracts to reduce that risk.

Topics: Homeland Security, DHS Policy

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