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DHS acquisitions make big strides but plenty of room to improve, says GAO

April 10, 2017 (Photo Credit: Paul J. Richards/Getty Images)
All of the Department of Homeland Security’s major acquisition programs now have schedule and cost goals established for the first time, and over half are on track to meet their department-approved baseline. The other half, meanwhile, could have benefitted from earlier requirements definition and more well-documented and insightful decision-making processes.

Performing an annual assessment of DHS’s 15 largest acquisition programs, as well as 11 at risk of poor outcomes, the Government Accountability Office found that in 2016 DHS revised reporting and response processes and focused on program needs to strengthen its acquisition policy.

There are several programs that were deployed without adequate documentation or approved baselines, however, as well as others that only recently established baselines and ones that experienced schedule slips or cost growth. These 2016 changes amounted to an average of six months, $988.3 million in acquisition costs and $1,571.3 million in life-cycle costs.

As of January 2017, 14 DHS acquisition programs deployed before meeting all key performance parameters, which could threaten their efficiency and effectiveness, according to the GAO report. Having a policy that requires programs to establish schedule, cost and performance baselines prior to full knowledge of the program’s technical requirements means available resources may not match needs, increasing the risk for schedule/cost changes and performance inconsistency.

GAO recommended that DHS define technical requirements before establishing baselines and better clarify when and how to report a performance breach to help provide insight into and correct causes of poor outcomes. DHS agreed.

The entire report can be found on

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