The Coast Guard’s handling of surplus personal property, including computer hard drives, is raising the risk of theft and potentially putting classified information in jeopardy, according to the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general.
The agency, which is part of DHS, lacked “adequate policies, procedures and processes to identify and screen, reutilize, and dispose of excess personal property properly,” the inspector general said in a report released this week. The Coast Guard also did not follow existing disposal policies that were in some cases “inadequate or contradictory,” the report said.
From fiscal 2008 to 2010, the Coast Guard disposed of about $3.3 billion in personal property, defined by the government as anything except records, real estate and some Navy ships. A central shortcoming, the inspector general found, was a decentralized system that gave limited authority and oversight to the division charged with disposal.
In 2011, for example, a Coast Guard civilian employee was arrested for allegedly stealing life rafts, computers and hundreds of other items. The case is still pending; the Coast Guard attributed the alleged theft to “poor disposal monitoring,” the report said. Although agency officials said they had made improvements in response to the episode, theft remains a risk, the inspector general found.
The Coast Guard also lacked a central policy for disposing of hard drives and other equipment containing classified information, instead leaving that task to individual units. Although some units tracked classified property as required in a central database, others used local spreadsheets.
“Neither USCG headquarters nor unit officials could explain why all classified property was not included” in the database, the report said.
In a written response attached to the review, Coast Guard administrators generally agreed to pursue improvements recommended by the IG.