Department of Homeland Security: GAO-08-263

Hutton, John P.
May 2008
GAO Reports;5/ 8/2008, p1
Government Document
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has relied on service acquisitions to meet its expansive mission. In fiscal year 2006, DHS spent $12.7 billion to procure services. To improve service acquisition outcomes, federal procurement law establishes a preference for a performance-based approach, which focuses on developing measurable outcomes rather than prescribing how contractors should perform services. GAO was asked to (1) evaluate the implementation of a performance-based approach in the context of service acquisitions for major, complex investments, and (2) identify management challenges that may affect DHS's successful acquisitions for major investments, including those using a performance-based approach. GAO reviewed judgmentally selected contracts for eight major investments at three DHS components totaling $1.53 billion in fiscal years 2005 and 2006; prior GAO and DHS Inspector General reviews; management documents and plans; and related data, including 138 additional contracts for basic services. All service contracts for the eight major, complex investments GAO reviewed had outcome-oriented requirements; however, four of these contracts did not have well-defined requirements, a complete set of measurable performance standards, or both. These service contracts experienced cost overruns, schedule delays, or did not otherwise meet performance expectations. In contrast, service contracts for the other four investments GAO reviewed had well-defined requirements linked to measurable performance standards. Contractors had begun work on three of these four contracts and performed within budget meeting the standards. This finding is consistent with prior GAO work on service acquisitions, which has highlighted the criticality of sound acquisition planning to develop well-defined requirements and measurable performance standards to achieving desired outcomes. In the four cases that had negative outcomes, program officials identified the contractor performance weaknesses through quality assurance surveillance and took corrective actions. Prior GAO work has found that if acquisitions, including those that are performance-based, are not appropriately planned, structured, and monitored, there is an increased risk that the government may receive products or services that are over budget, delivered late, and of unacceptable quality. In managing its service acquisitions, including those that are performance based, DHS has faced workforce and oversight challenges. Prior GAO work has highlighted the importance of having the right people with the right skills to achieve successful acquisition outcomes. Contracts for two major investments with negative cost and schedule outcomes did not have the staff needed to adequately plan and execute the contracts. Further, while representatives for several of the contracts GAO reviewed indicated that contracting and program staff worked well together, some senior acquisition representatives at the...


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