(TSA)

OIG Tells TSA to Improve Oversight for Human Capital Contracts

The TSA workforce comprises nearly 66,000 employees, including Transportation Security Officers (TSO), Federal Air Marshals, and Management Administrative Professionals (MAP) and is currently in the midst of a new hiring effort.

In 2016, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) awarded a contract to Accenture, with a maximum value of $290 million, for recruitment and hiring to build up TSA’s workforce. The Office of Inspector General (OIG) has conducted an audit to determine whether TSA is managing its Recruitment and Hiring (R&H) contract in a fiscally responsible manner according to federal, departmental, and component requirements. 

Ultimately, OIG found that TSA did not manage the Accenture R&H contract in a fiscally responsible manner. According to OIG’s report, TSA did not properly plan contract requirements prior to awarding the contract and did not develop accurate cost estimates for all contract modifications. 

TSA modified the IT system’s security requirements 7 months after initial award. According to TSA, the decision to increase the security was made to safeguard the high volume of personally identifiable information in light of the June 2015 Office of Personnel Management (OPM) data breach. Additionally, although TSA initially anticipated the cost for increasing security requirements to be about $5 million, the first modification was awarded at $21.7 million. In a subsequent modification, TSA determined the initial modification was “no longer affordable or in the best interest of the government,” and reduced the system requirements by half to cut costs from $21.7 to $17.3 million. However, due to government delays inhibiting completion of the system security updates, TSA added two more modifications for an additional $20.9 million. Overall, the R&H system security update took 23 months to complete, rather than the anticipated 9 months, and resulted in a total of $38.2 million in unplanned costs, more than twice the revised cost estimate of $17.3 million. 

OIG reports that TSA also modified the R&H contract to add the Candidates Cloud requirement. According to TSA, the purpose of this change was to address IT modernization initiatives and complete the transition away from its legacy systems. TSA awarded the R&H contract intending to replace the recruiting and hiring functions and systems from the legacy HRAccess contract. However, OIG found that TSA did not add the Candidates Cloud requirement to the R&H contract until almost 3 years after contract award. As of December 2020, due to schedule delays, TSA had not implemented the Candidates Cloud, which caused continued reliance on legacy systems. 

OIG said the failings occurred because TSA did not provide effective contract oversight; develop an acquisition strategy to coordinate the needs of multiple offices; or have the expertise to ensure cost estimates were accurate and realistic. As a result, TSA incurred approximately $91.8 million in unplanned costs on the R&H contract. As of January 2021, TSA obligated $287 million of the $290 million ceiling on the R&H contract and must reallocate limited resources from other critical mission areas to raise the contract ceiling. 

The R&H contract expires in August 2021 and TSA has not awarded the follow-on contract, therefore an interim contract may need to be established to ensure continuity of hiring activities.

OIG recommends that the TSA Executive Assistant Administrator of Enterprise Support establish a cross-functional requirements working group with appropriate Enterprise Support program offices for planning and awarding the Recruitment and Hiring re-compete efforts as well as other Personnel Futures Program contract requirements. This working group should then develop a holistic and forward-thinking acquisition strategy that balances the Office of Human Capital’s operational needs with Office of Information Technology’s system modernization priorities; and also implement a comprehensive process for reviewing and determining requirements. 

TSA concurred and said as of January 25, 2021, it has centralized the decision making of all modernization and contractual matters to the OHC Assistant Administrator, resulting in greater transparency, cooperation, and accountability. Additionally, TSA has established a Modernization Integrated Program Team comprised of experts. TSA has also reorganized human capital operations to create three new divisions, including a Modernization Center to develop, govern, test, pilot, and rollout new technologies; a HC Services Delivery Division to oversee day-to-day operations for hiring and benefits activities; and a HC Systems, Services, and Data Analytics Division to oversee all human capital technology and data analytics capabilities. It expects to have all new processes in place by January 31, 2022.

In addition, OIG recommends that the TSA Executive Assistant Administrator of Enterprise Support ensure Human Capital improves contract management activities including, but not limited to, requirements planning and realistic cost estimate development by obtaining additional expert resources or leveraging Acquisition Program Management’s existing expertise. 

TSA also agreed with this recommendation and said it has begun to improve contract management activities by hiring a Branch Manager, System Integration Expert, and Program Integrator. The Branch Manager oversees all relevant contracts and interagency agreements, as well as serving as a Portfolio Manager to ensure a holistic approach to contract management. TSA is hiring a Systems Integration Expert to integrate new systems within the TSA environment. Additionally, TSA created and hired a new Program Integrator position, which reports directly to the Executive Director of Human Capital Operations. TSA has also cultivated a collaborative relationship with Acquisition Program Management to leverage its capabilities on all acquisition projects. OIG determined that collaboration between TSA program offices and hiring for vacant positions are responsive to the recommendation.

Read the full report at OIG

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Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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