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CBP Mismanaged Its Cargo Screening Equipment Maintenance Contracts

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) needs to improve its oversight of contractors performing corrective and preventive maintenance on its screening equipment, according to a recent audit by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General (IG).

CBP’s Non-Intrusive Inspection Systems Program (NII) is designed to facilitate the flow of international trade while helping CBP officers effectively and efficiently detect and prevent contraband, including drugs, unreported currency, guns, ammunition and other illegal merchandise, as well as inadmissible persons, from being smuggled into the United States.

NII furthers this mission by providing technologies to screen cargo and conveyances at the nation’s land, sea, and air ports of entry. CBP spent more than $1.9 billion on the NII program between 1995 and 2014.

In fiscal year 2014, CBP awarded six contracts and one interagency agreement valued at approximately $90.4 million to perform preventative and corrective maintenance of NII equipment. The IG conducted its audit to determine whether maintenance of the screening equipment is performed in accordance with contractual requirements and manufacturers’ specifications.

Currently, CBP does not conduct independent assessments of the service contractors’ performance. Instead, CBP evaluates the quality of the contractors’ maintenance services by using contractual performance measures such as repeat equipment failures, operational availability of equipment, and customer wait time for repairs.

The IG determined that, “Without a process to validate maintenance data and to evaluate and assess that NII equipment is being repaired and maintained in accordance with manufacturers’ specifications, CBP’s NII equipment may not be repaired and maintained to retain full functionality and maximum useful life.”

Although field officials verify whether contractors complete a maintenance service and restore equipment to operational status, they do not confirm whether the contractors performed maintenance as contractually required or according to manufacturers’ specifications.

CBP relies on the service contractor-submitted work order data and reports to assess their performance. However, CBP does not validate the data, raising questions over its reliability. For instance, the Inspector General said CBP used contractor-submitted data from its MAXIMO Asset Management System to determine that the contractors exceeded the 95 percent requirement for operational availability of the NII equipment. CBP made this determination without performing any validation or verification of this data.

“CBP monitored NII operations using methods such as conducting daily meetings to discuss and NII availability and reviewing field office submissions of utilizations reports,” the IG stated. “However, CBP has not ensured that contractors perform preventive and corrective maintenance on its screening equipment in accordance with contractual specifications.”

Continuing, the Inspector General said, “This deficiency occurred because CBP has not verified that maintenance is performed in accordance with manufacturers’ specifications, evaluated contractors’ performance, and assessed the reliability of maintenance data.”

The IG recommended the Office of Information and Technology develop a methodology and implement a plan to monitor and periodically review contractors’ performance.

CBP concurred with the recommendation and stated that the agency is committed to the NII program.

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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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