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Mismanagement of FPS Vehicle Fleet Illustrative of DHS’s ‘Culture of Waste’

Mismanagement of FPS Vehicle Fleet Illustrative of DHS's 'Culture of Waste' Homeland Security TodayThe House Committee on Homeland Security’s Oversight and Management Efficiency Subcommittee held a hearing Thursday to discuss the findings of a recent report revealing that ineffective management of the vehicle fleet of the Federal Protective Service (FPS) — which provides security and law enforcement services to US federal buildings — potentially cost DHS $2.5 million in FY 2014.

According to a recent report by Homeland Security Today, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General (IG) questioned the number of vehicles FPS leases and the size of the vehicles chosen, as well as officers’ authorization to drive from home to work in the Washington DC area. Furthermore, FPS could not justify the need for the purchases of discretionary law enforcement equipment, including bike racks, rechargeable flashlights and wireless security system.

“To ensure it has the optimal fleet necessary to meet its mission, FPS needs to develop and use a sound methodology instead of making ad hoc, undocumented decisions,” IG auditors concluded. “Without better oversight and accurate data, FPS cannot ensure it is effectively managing its fleet, and it is also missing opportunities to identify cost savings.”

Although FPS’s vehicle fleet represents only a small part of DHS’ overall budget, subcommittee chairman Scott Perry (R-Penn.) explained that FPS’ failure to put rigorous controls in place to prevent waste is indicative of a bigger problem—a culture of waste at DHS that disregards American taxpayer dollars.

“The management failures outlined in the IG’s report demonstrate a culture of waste by DHS regarding taxpayer money,” Perry said. “That is reprehensible and unacceptable. Since the IG only reviewed one year of data, it’s safe to say FPS wasted millions more in previous years; maybe even tens of millions. Putting a new policy in place doesn’t cut it.”

“DHS must hold employees that waste taxpayer dollars accountable,” Perry added. “Every dollar wasted on mismanagement is one less that goes to actually protecting the public. The American people will not stand for such management malpractice.”

Questioning L. Eric Patterson, director of FPS, Perry asked, “How does FPS’ mission require more vehicles than US Border Patrol?”

Patterson said, “Our folks are on the road a lot. Vehicles break down. We need back-ups. Given that dynamic, 100 excess vehicles is not excessive.”

Perry responded, “Have you tested how the breakdown rate impacts your mission readiness given that 49 percent of your vehicles have less than 12,000 miles on them—a new vehicle to most of America?”

Patterson said they look at this continually as they decide how to allocate vehicles. However, when Perry asked the mission readiness rate, Patterson had no answer.

Perry said, “You would come here not knowing your operational readiness rate? You don’t have an answer for me, sir? That is unacceptable. You can’t come here and make a case without that information and, if you had, I accept my case would have been made.”

Lawmakers also brought up questions regarding the accurate capture of monthly vehicle mileage. Inspector General John Roth explained that his office looked at two data sets. One included information FPS officers reported to FPS and another included mileage recorded by FPS officer every time they stop at a gas pump and then reported to the General Services Administration (GSA). The auditors discovered a 98 percent error rate between those data sets.

In addition, 25 vehicles had negative mileage recorded in the GSA drive-thru system.

“How is it possible for a vehicle to register negative mileage,” asked Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.).

“I’m as stumped as you are,” Roth said.

Roth said his office has made numerous recommendations for DHS over the years to improve data reliability and strengthen oversight for fleet management. FPS has been responsive to those recommendations and has taken steps to ensure the operation of a cost-efficient fleet.

For example, the DHS Chief Readiness Support Officer has issued interim guidance that provides clear definitions and guidelines for when home-to-work is authorized. The guidance increases oversight by requiring the Department to periodically review all existing, component-approved Home-to-Work transportation authorizations.

In response to the IG’s recommendation to eliminate SUVs in favor of a sedan based fleet, FPS conducted a cost analysis of the two options and determined a sedan costs more than an SUV, since sedan up-fit costs are amortized over a 36 month lease and an SUV up-fit is amortized over a 60 month lease.

FPS is also revising its Motor Vehicle Fleet Management Instruction in order to enhance Department-level oversight of its motor vehicle program; working together with the GSA to ensure a common understanding of leasing arrangements and billing processes; and has finalized a methodology for spare vehicle management to better document and validate that the numberand type of spare vehicles on hand at any given time are appropriate given mission needs.

However, additional actions are needed to continue to improve fleet management.

“Our recent review of FPS is merely one more example of the consequences that limited departmental oversight and authority can have on a component’s ability to manage its own vehicle fleet operation effectively,” Roth said. “Without policies that afford fleet managers with definitive, enforceable authority, components will continue to operate with a ‘business as usual’ mentality with no assurance that they are operating optimal fleets.”

Homeland Security Todayhttp://www.hstoday.us
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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