DHS Acquisition Policies Undermine Accountability

Today, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, announced the release of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on acquisition policies and processes. The report is entitled Department of Homeland Security: Assessments of Selected Complex Acquisitions. You can download a copy of it HERE as a PDF.

In fiscal year 2009, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had 67 major acquisitions supporting vital homeland security missions, including securing our borders, mitigating natural disasters, and investigating security threats.

GAO found that of the 15 major programs that had started acquisition activities, 12 reported cost growth, and almost all programs reported schedule delays. Further, DHS’s acquisition spending has increased by 66 percent—from $8.5 billion in fiscal year 2004 to $14.2 billion in fiscal year 2009—and its portfolio of complex acquisitions continues to expand.

Chairman Thompson released the following statement with the release of the report:

“Over the years, the Committee on Homeland Security has continuously examined the Department’s shortcomings in performing its oversight responsibilities over major acquisition programs such as SBInet, US-VISIT, Secure Flight, and Rescue 21. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that GAO has found that the Department continues to struggle with improving its oversight and implementation of major acquisitions.

Several factors have lead to this situation, including the Department’s decentralized acquisition system that permits individual components to have a direct impact on acquisitions. While this system has been called one of ‘dual accountability,’ the resulting cost overruns and delays would seem to indicate that it is a system that undermines accountability.

I am not alone in questioning this system. According to GAO, the responsible DHS acquisition oversight officials have raised concerns about the accuracy of cost estimates for most major programs.

GAO also reiterates concerns that this Committee has raised for several years, including staffing shortages, a lack of sustainment planning and technical capacity, and an overreliance on private sector partners in major programs. Currently, outside contractors outnumber Federal employees within the Department.

The Department must undertake significant and concerted efforts to reform and centralize its procurement efforts, engage in strategic long-term life cycle planning for major acquisitions, and hire and train a sufficient number of personnel to decrease its reliance on outside contractors. I look forward to working with the Department and GAO as we try to strengthen oversight of these critical homeland security programs.”

No posts to display