Nearly all of the Department of Homeland Security’s largest and most expensive projects have soared over budget and slid behind schedule, delaying important programs vital to national security. And, naturally, the taxpayers have picked up the tab.
Here they go again…according to yet another report from the Government Accountability Office which reviewed 22 of DHS’s most significant projects and concluded that all but two are on track. The rest were, on average, behind schedule by about three and a half years.
Some of the programs include the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Logistics Supply Chain Management System that’s supposed to help the agency coordinate with other federal entities while responding to a disaster. Anther massive program on the list is the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) Passenger Screening Program.
Just two programs got good marks-- the Customs and Border Protection's Automated Commercial Environment, or ACE, program and the Transportation Security Administration's Electronic Baggage Screening Program.
Overall, the delays have added to the projects’ ballooning price tags. GAO estimated that the total cost of the 22 programs is about $9.7 billion higher than originally expected. So far, 14 are behind schedule and at least half are over budget.
The auditors said they weren’t able to review at least six projects because the agency didn’t have approved cost estimates or schedules to measure progress even though federal policy requires those approvals.
The GAO attributed the cost overruns and schedule delays to staffing issues, technical difficulties with IT systems and funding shortages.
This “increases the likelihood that acquisition programs' schedules will slip and costs will grow," the report said.
An earlier GAO report slammed the Program Accountability and Risk Management (PARM) office in charge of keeping track of the programs’ costs—saying it wasn’t assuring that DHS was submitting all of the appropriate documents to make budget projections.
The auditors recommended that PARM put in place a policy to ensure the agency is documenting all of the correct information to have a better idea of how much the projects will cost going forward.
For its part, DHS responded to the GAO saying it’s currently taking steps to address the challenges.
The auditors said “it will likely take years to fully resolve the challenges.”
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