Serious management challenges and overhead waste at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)—the nation’s third largest federal Department—may be putting the United States at risk, according to a report released on August 2 by the House Committee on Homeland Security.
The new report, Streamlining the Department of Homeland Security’s Overhead Will Make the Homeland Safer, outlines several recommendations for improving the efficiency of the Department’s operations based on feedback from key stakeholders in government and industry, as well as a review of more than twenty reports from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and DHS’s Office of the Inspector General.
Commenting on the report, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said DHS has been plagued by a culture of waste ever since the Department was first established in the wake of the tragic September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
“There is no room for error in the defense of our nation,” said McCaul. “The more DHS wastes on unnecessary overhead costs, the less money and resources it has to carry out key missions including: border security, interior enforcement, cybersecurity, aviation security, and supporting first responders.”
Real estate is one of the major areas where DHS needs to make additional progress. The Department spends nearly $2 billion annually on 100 square feet of leased/owned space, according to the report. With each component using a disparate system to track real estate data, DHS lacks a cohesive way to measure its real estate footprint, which the report says has “swollen well beyond what the Department actually needs to carry out its mission.”
In one case, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was paying $3.5 million annually for a 250 bed detention center in New York, New York that has not been used since 9/11. The report said ICE indicates that it could save approximately $2.7 million a year by getting rid of this unusable space.
Mismanagement of DHS’s vehicle fleet is another area needing significant improvement. As Homeland Security Today previously reported, the vehicle fleet of the Federal Protective Service (FPS), which provides security and law enforcement services to US federal buildings, has not been managed effectively, potentially costing DHS $2.5 million in FY 2014, according to a DHS OIG report.
The report questioned the number of vehicles FPS leases and the size of the vehicles chosen, as well as officers’ authorization to drive from home to work in the Washington DC area. Furthermore, FPS could not justify the need for the purchases of discretionary law enforcement equipment, including bike racks, rechargeable flashlights and wireless security system.
“To ensure it has the optimal fleet necessary to meet its mission, FPS needs to develop and use a sound methodology instead of making ad hoc, undocumented decisions,” IG auditors concluded. “Without better oversight and accurate data, FPS cannot ensure it is effectively managing its fleet, and it is also missing opportunities to identify cost savings.”
The Committee stated that increasing efficiencies within DHS’s real estate portfolio could drive significant cost savings. Co-locating DHS components with one another or with other federal agencies, for example, could not only result in additional cost savings, but also improved collaboration and information sharing.
“By better managing the enterprise-wide real property portfolio, DHS will be able to operate in a more efficient manner, saving tens of millions of dollars in the process,” the report stated.“Furthermore, the more DHS saves on administrative overhead, the more resources it can redirect to its mission of securing the homeland.”
Overall, the Committee found that DHS is making progress towards eliminating inefficiencies and overhead waste. For example, the Department has launched multiple pilot programs across the nation geared towards examining DHS field efficiencies.
The Committee is also doing their part. Overthe years, they have conducted oversight activities, including hearings and site visits, and put numerous oversight activities, and put forth legislation to improve DHS field efficiencies including HR 1626, the DHS IT Duplication Reduction Act of 2015, HR 3572, the DHS Headquarters Reform and Improvement Act of 2015, and HR 4785, the DHS Stop Asset and Vehicle Excess Act.
The report offered several recommendations to bolster DHS field efficiencies, including the following:
- Sustain commitment to better tracking and analyzing enterprise-wide real property data.
- Consolidate excess real estate and dispose of underutilized space.
- Utilize best practices from the private sector and other government agencies.
“Improving the Department’s operations and promoting efficiencies within its real property portfolio is a bipartisan, good-government issue that Congress and the Department should be able to work together on in order to achieve significant costs savings for the nation and American taxpayer,” the report concluded.