Homeland Security: Successes and Challenges in DHS's Efforts to Create an Effective Acquisition Organization: GAO-05-179

Sullivan, Michael J.
March 2005
GAO Reports;3/29/2005, p1
Government Document
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) organizations are expected to work together to protect the United States from terrorism. To support this primary mission, DHS has been acquiring billions of dollars worth of goods and services. DHS also has been working to integrate the disparate acquisition processes and systems that organizations brought with them when DHS was created 2 years ago. GAO was asked to identify (1) areas where DHS has been successful in promoting collaboration among its various organizations and (2) areas where DHS still faces challenges in integrating the acquisition function across the department. GAO was also asked to assess DHS's progress in implementing an effective review process for major, complex investments. DHS's disparate organizations have quickly established collaborative relationships to leverage spending for various goods and services without losing focus on small businesses. DHS is using strategic sourcing, that is, formulating purchasing strategies to meet departmentwide requirements for specific commodities, such as office supplies, boats, energy, and weapons. By fostering collaboration, DHS has leveraged its buying power and savings are expected to grow. Also off to a good start is the small business program, whose reach is felt across DHS. Representatives have been designated in each DHS procurement office to help ensure that small businesses have opportunities to compete for DHS's contract dollars. In contrast, lack of clear accountability is hampering DHS's efforts to integrate the acquisition functions of its numerous organizations into an effective whole. DHS remains a collection of disparate organizations, many of which are performing functions with insufficient oversight, giving rise to an environment rife with challenges. Some of DHS's organizations have major, complex acquisition programs that are subject to a multitiered investment review process to help reduce risk and increase chances for successful outcomes in terms of cost, schedule, and performance. Part of the review process features a knowledge-based acquisition approach pioneered by successful commercial firms. DHS's adaptation of this best practices approach, however, does not require two critical management reviews and is missing some key information before decisions are made to invest additional resources. In addition, contractor tracking and oversight is not fully incorporated into DHS policy and guidance. Finally, some aspects of the review process--which has been under revision for many months--need clarification.


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