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Execution and Affordability Concerns Still Plague DHS Programs, GAO Says

Eight out of 25 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) programs audited by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in experienced schedule slips, cost growth or both, last fiscal year, including 5 programs with life-cycle cost estimates that increased by a total of 18 percent, GAO said in a new audit report.

Eleven reviewed by GAO remained on track to meet their current schedule and cost goals.

For six other programs GAO audited, “DHS leadership had not approved baselines establishing their schedule and cost goals as of December 15, 2015.”

GAO reported, “DHS leadership has since approved baselines for four of these six programs (one of the six is being discontinued). This action should enhance DHS’s management efforts going forward, but GAO could not assess whether the programs were on track during 2015 because the baselines were approved so late in the year.”

According to GAO, “Since 2008, 12 of the 25 programs changed their key performance parameters (KPP)—the requirements a system must meet to fulfill its purpose—after DHS leadership approved them. Programs most often changed KPPs because they were poorly defined or programs decided to pursue greater capabilities. Nine programs may change their KPPs in the future, including seven that changed KPPs before. There are valid reasons to change a KPP—such as responding to emerging threats—but changes often come with schedule slips and cost growth.”

GAO found that DHS leadership is taking actions to improve the affordability of its major acquisition portfolio.

Fourteen of the programs GAO reviewed currently have funding plans covering at least 93 percent of their estimated costs through fiscal year 2020, and in June 2014, DHS leadership required that components must certify programs’ funding levels and identify tradeoffs necessary to address any funding gaps prior to major decisions.

“These efforts have generally been effective, and components have identified specific actions they can take to close three programs’ funding gaps in the future,” GAO stated. However, GAO added, “the guidance does not require components to quantify cost estimates, funding streams and the monetary value of proposed tradeoffs; and, in one case, the Coast Guard did not provide DHS leadership information needed to assess the National Security Cutter program’s funding gap.”

From June 2014 through December 2015, “DHS leadership assessed 14 of the programs GAO reviewed through this process, but it is uncertain whether DHS leadership will assess the remaining programs in a timely manner because the assessments are not required until major decisions, which can occur infrequently.” GAO said.

However, GAO reported, “Without timely affordability assessments, the acquisition funding plans presented to Congress are less likely to be comprehensive. That said, components do not have to wait for DHS leadership to improve the affordability of their acquisition programs. For example, the Transportation Security Administration has a formal affordability review process. However, Customs and Border Protection and the Coast Guard do not. DHS could further improve the affordability of its major acquisitions by requiring all components to create formal processes for addressing affordability.”

DHS concurred with GAO’s recommendations and remedial action.

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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