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Homeland Security – Procurement Problems Plague Post-9/11 Era

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For some reason this 9/11 anniversary feels a little different than those before. Maybe it’s the distance and perspective we’ve gained from the event. Maybe it’s all the trouble and violence that has continued since then. Whatever the reason, it seemed fitting to post today on a topic connected to September the 11th.

And here it is.. USA Today ran a story about a July Congressional Report from the Committee on Government Reform about the Department of Homeland Security. The article is titled “Critics slam Homeland Security contracts, cite waste, lack of oversight – and it is a bombshell.

Spending $17.5B last year via almost 67,000 contracts, the Department appears to be out of control. Congress has taken notice & is disappointed with the execution and oversight related to that enormous amount of spending.

The Congressional Report is called Waste, Abuse, and Mismanagement in Department of Homeland Security Contracts. It is available online in .pdf – but be careful before clicking as it weighs in at 48.6Mb!

The USA Today story provides a good summary. Here is a little more detail:

  • Contract spending has grown 189% since the creation of the new Department
  • Noncompetitive contracts have soared 700%
  • Contract mismanagement is “pervasive”
  • The costs to the Taxpayer are enormous as the report details $34.3B in 32 contracts that have been plagued by waste, abuse, or mismanagement

In addition, millions of dollars in federal employee p-card abuse exists. Under the 1994 legislation, federal workers can use credit cards to buy small amounts of goods or services directly from vendors. And boy have they – including:

  • purchase of 2,000 sets of unnecessary canine “booties” for more than $68,000
  • purchase of “tens of thousands” of dollars for training at golf and tennis resorts

Seems more than a few federal employees figured out how to avoid auditing and oversight – or worse yet, figured out there was none! Of course, as egregious as these examples are, it’s spare change compared with the money flowing out of the Department. 11 of the 32 contracts valued at $34.3B are explored in some detail in the report. For example, here is a representative analysis on “The Contract to Hire Airport Screeners”

  • was awarded in February 2002 for $104 million to NCS Pearson Inc.
  • “to test and hire airport passenger and baggage screeners”
  • in less than 1 year, contract “ballooned” to $741 million
  • audit questioned at least $297 million of expenditures
  • 1 subcontract challenged by audit agency “paid the chief executive of an ‘event logistics’ company – newly formed by two former travel agency employees – over $5 million for just nine months of work”

Now, unbelievably, the USA Today reports “Chief procurement officer Elaine Duke agrees with the House report, and says a lot of the problems cited involved contracts written ‘during a time of immense urgency.'”

So is there no one to blame for this colossal mismanagement of Taxpayer money? Seems hard to believe. Okay, impossible to believe. If the Department were private, the CPO would be fired. But in the world of governments, she is likely to get a lot more personnel. Perhaps she’ll turn things around. But adding people without fixing process would be a recipe for continued “legendary” waste & mismanagement. And that shouldn’t make any of us feel very safe.

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Written by Dave Stephens

09/11/06 12:28 PM at 12:28 pm

Posted in Opinion

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