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GAO: DHS Should Leverage Results from Acquisition Programs to Improve Portfolio Management

A GAO report found that DHS could improve its acquisition program portfolio management by leveraging results from previous programs and more fully documenting breaches in performance goals, time or cost schedule.

Each year, DHS invests billions of dollars in major acquisitions such as aircraft and surveillance technology, but GAO found that in 2017 more than half of the agency’s major acquisition programs needed more time and money than initially planned.

GAO looked at 28 programs in total, four of which were new programs that GAO did not assess because they did not establish cost and schedule goals before the end of calendar year 2017 as planned. Of the remaining 24, 10 were on track to meet schedule and cost goals, six had schedule delays, two had cost increases and six had both schedule delays and cost increases.

GAO found that DHS’s policies do not reflect the key practice to reassess a program that breaches — or exceeds — its cost, schedule, or performance goals in the context of the portfolio to ensure it is still relevant or affordable. Acquisition management officials said that, in practice, they do so based on a certification of funds memorandum — a tool GAO has found to be effective for DHS leadership to assess program affordability — submitted by the component when one of its programs re-baselines in response to a breach. Documenting this practice in policy would help ensure DHS makes strategic investment decisions within its limited budget.

It also found that DHS is not leveraging information gathered from reviews once programs complete implementation to manage its portfolio of active acquisition programs. DHS’s acquisition policy requires programs to conduct post-implementation reviews after initial capabilities are deployed, which is in line with GAO’s key practices. Acquisition management officials said they do not consider the results of these reviews in managing DHS’s portfolio because the reviews are typically conducted after oversight for a program shifts to the components. Leveraging these results across DHS could enable DHS to address potential issues that may contribute to poor outcomes, such as schedule slips and cost growth, for other programs in its acquisition portfolio.

GAO recommends that The Under Secretary for Management should update DHS’s acquisition management policy to require components to submit a certification of funds memorandum when a major acquisition program re-baselines in response to a breach, and that the Office of Program Accountability and Risk Management should assess the results of major acquisition programs’ post-implementation reviews and identify opportunities to improve performance across the acquisition portfolio.

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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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