The Department of Homeland Security Acquisition Accountability and Efficiency Act (HR 2199) introduced in the House last week would streamline DHS’s purchasing processes. The bipartisan legislation would require greater oversight of DHS’s purchasing practices while ensuring needed flexibility and providing clarity for American businesses.
Late last month, during an acquisition oversight hearing on how effectively DHS is safeguarding taxpayer dollars before by the House Committee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency, lawmakers were highly critical of DHS’s department-wide acquisition processes.
“A broken acquisition process delivers tools that are late, cost more and do less than anticipated. Watchdogs continue to find failures in DHS’s management of its acquisitions, which is unacceptable and puts taxpayer dollars at risk," said subcommittee chairman Scott Perry (R-Pa.).
“This hearing will examine DHS’s major acquisition programs and processes and what must be done to fix long-standing problems and achieve better outcomes for the American taxpayer and frontline personnel,” Perry stated.
“The Government Accountability Office identified continued failures with DHS’s management of its major acquisition programs. GAO’s audit report found that, on average, programs are over three-and-a-half years late in meeting their key objectives. Cost estimates for selected programs increased by 40 percent, or almost $10 billion.
“DHS needs people to effectively carry out everything that is on paper (rules, guidelines, etc.),” Homeland Security Today was told by former DHS Chief Procurement Officer Dr. Nick Nayak, who, along with former DHS procurement ombudsman Jose Arrieta, wrote, Partnering with Industry is Key to Improving Acquisition Outcomes, in the Aug./Sept. 2014 issue of Homeland Security Today.
Nayak explained that, “There simply are not enough cost estimators or program management people to carry out the oversight everyone wants.”
DHS’s acquisition process would be reformed under The DHS Acquisition Accountability and Efficiency Act by:
- Authorizing the department’s Chief Acquisition Officer, the Undersecretary for Management, to approve, halt, modify or cancel major acquisition programs as needed;
- Requiring that every major acquisition program have an approved Acquisition Program Baseline (APB) document;
- Codifying the Acquisition Review Board andrequiring the board to validate the documents – including the APB – and review the cost, schedule, and performance objectives of major acquisitions;
- Requiring a Multiyear Acquisition Strategy be included in each Future Years Homeland Security Program;
- Authorizing the Chief Procurement Officer to serve as the main liaison to industry and to oversee a certification and training program for DHS’s acquisition workforce;
- Compelling DHS to submit to Congress major acquisition programs that fail to meet cost, schedule, or performance metrics through quarterly status and accountability reports;
- Directing the department to find ways to streamline the acquisition process and strategically address issues regarding bid protest without creating any new offices or programs; and
- Instructing DHS to eliminate unnecessary duplication.
“Congressional watchdogs continue to find failures in how DHS spends billions of taxpayer dollars on its major acquisition purchases. As a combat aviator having served in Iraq, I understand the importance of delivering tools to the field in a timely way,” said Rep. Scott Perry (R-Penn.), chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency.
“Frontline operators securing our borders, defending our shores, and protecting our aviation systems should not wait years longer than promised for systems that don’t perform as intended,” Perry said. “The American people also deserve strong accountability so that their hard earned tax dollars are not put at risk. This bill seeks to fix long-standing problems at DHS to more efficiently meet its mission and better protect taxpayer dollars.”
House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas), said, “As the federal government’s third largest agency, it is imperative the men and women who protect the United States at the Department of Homeland Security have the right tools to combat the multitude of threats that face our nation.”
“This bipartisan legislation,” he said, “will ensure better management of large purchases by the department and will strengthen the management programs to ultimately better secure the homeland and save taxpayer dollars. While DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson is taking steps to improve DHS’s acquisition process through his Unity of Effort initiative, we can’t wait years to fix the department’s mismanaged acquisition programs.”
“Congress continues to see unmistakable signs that the Department of Homeland Security has not yet tackled serious problems with acquisition management,” said committee ranking member Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.). “How the department invests in the capabilities that frontline operators need for their critical missions needs reform and better oversight. Major acquisitions must produce better results both in terms of affordability and effectiveness – we cannot continue to throw money at programs that have been unsuccessful.”
Subcommittee ranking member Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), said, “American taxpayers expect federal agencies to operate efficiently and effectively, especially when it comes to national security. Unfortunately, the Department of Homeland Security’s acquisition process has yet to meet these expectations. The DHS Acquisition Accountability and Efficiency Act marks an important first step to improve this process. Specifically, the bill strengthens best management practices to drive down cost and risk; expands opportunities for small businesses; calls on DHS to invest in acquisition personnel and resources; and toughens safeguards that prevent DHS from contracting with bad actors.”