“It’s a big department,” Napolitano said Thursday afternoon. “We do a lot of acquisitions. We are often criticized for some of those acquisitions. There have been different standards used by different elements of the department, different requirements employed, different oversight done. What we want to do is create a professionalized acquisition workforce that knows the DHS missions, that can understand how things fit together.”
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, asked her whether the additional funding actually will prevent some of the management problems the department has suffered. The budget proposal follows recommendations made by the Government Accountability Office and DHS inspector general, Napolitano told him at a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing.
The additional money would bring on board 150 additional systems engineers, program managers, logisticians, business cost estimators and other acquisition personnel to ensure requirements inserted into contracts are appropriate and to provide greater accountability, she said.
The acquisition workforce funding would be dispersed departmentwide. For example, the budget requests $1.5 million for bolstering the staffing at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, while Customs and Border Protection would get $3.5 million.
For years, GAO has placed DHS on its list of high-risk areas in the federal government, but the most recent assessment, issued this week, highlighted some improvements, including the development of a plan for enhancing acquisition management.
Still, management remains high risk because Homeland Security has not demonstrated sustained progress in implementing fixes, the auditors wrote. “For example, DHS has not fully planned for or acquired the workforce needed to implement its acquisition oversight policies,” they noted. “Challenges within acquisition, information technology, financial and human capital management have resulted in performance problems and mission delays.”
The report cites as an example CBP’s recently canceled $1 billion virtual fence, known as the Secure Border Initiative network, which failed to meet cost, benefit and schedule expectations.
“Part of bringing the additional workforce in is also consistency in training so that . . . it’s a real part of the professional development of the department,” Napolitano explained.
She said money saved by an efficiency review process instituted in 2009 shows that the department is serious about addressing management problems. The 2012 budget states all DHS components identified a total of $800 million in reductions stemming from the reviews, as well as administrative savings.
— by Aliya Sternstein – NextGov.com – 02/18/2011