The Department of Homeland Security invests billions of dollars each year in major acquisition programs to assist in executing its many critical missions. The Government Accountability Office previously found that DHS agencies had acquisition programs that did not meet requirements. Sometimes operational requirements were poorly defined, increasing the risk of not meeting the needs of end users in the field, such as emergency responders.
GAO looked at seven DHS agencies and found that some meet GAO-identified best practices for defining operational requirements and others do not.
Establishing a formal policy to guide the process is critical to developing well-defined requirements. However, only the Coast Guard has an approved policy for requirements development among the seven components reviewed. Without well-defined requirements, components are at risk of acquiring capabilities that will not meet mission needs. DHS officials told GAO that components have generally prioritized obtaining funding and starting programs over developing requirements.
Three components have a requirements development organization, separating requirements from acquisition in addressing capability gaps. Officials from components without such organizations told GAO that they have fewer major acquisitions and rely on DHS to assist in requirements development. DHS policy and best practices, however, maintain the importance of this separation regardless of the number of major acquisitions to guard against possible bias by acquisition officials toward a specific materiel solution.
Two components have assessed requirements development workforce needs, but both need to be updated; and one component has provided requirements development training and certification. Other component officials told GAO that they lack the resources necessary to take these steps. Best practices indicate that without an appropriately sized and trained workforce, components remain at risk of acquiring capabilities that fail to meet end user needs.
GAO made 25 recommendations including to individual components to establish policies and independent organizations for requirements development, assess workforce needs, and establish training and certifications. DHS concurred with all the recommendations.