WASHINGTON – Four senior Democrats sought information Wednesday on the Department of Homeland Security’s excessive reliance on outside consultants with regard to the proposed outsourcing of over a thousand Immigration Information Officers. Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Pat Leahy, D-Vt., Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., and the Judiciary Committee’s Immigration Subcommittee Ranking Member Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. – in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge – noted that several consultants have been hired to work on various aspects of the proposal.
“We are interested in the work that consultants have done… and why DHS is unable to conduct a competition without the use of so many consultants,” the senators wrote. “We are also concerned that an excessive reliance on contractors may impede the ability of DHS management to make an independent decision, one that maintains as a primary focus the Department’s central mission of protecting the nation.” The Senators also asked Ridge to produce all reports, presentations, and work products prepared by the consultants for the Department. Below is a copy of the letter: October 22, 2003 The Honorable Tom Ridge Secretary U.S. Department of Homeland Security Washington, DC 20528 Dear Secretary Ridge: We are writing to inquire about the work done by several private contractors regarding the potential outsourcing of 1,100 Immigration Information Officers (IIO) at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In a letter to you dated September 4th, 2003, signed by 34 Senators, we stated our strong belief that subjecting the work performed by IIOs to possible privatization was not an appropriate or wise course of action. In meetings this July with our staff, DHS officials stated that a study was conducted by Grant Thornton LLP to examine the potential benefit of outsourcing this group of employees. This study was intended to collect raw data, with the purpose of assisting DHS officials in deciding how to proceed. Our staff members learned that this study was originally commissioned by the Department of Justice, before the formation of the DHS, and that the study continued under the supervision of DHS after the Immigration and Naturalization Service was transferred. The DHS announced in August that the IIOs’ work would be subjected to a competition. We understand that Department officials, in a meeting with employee representatives, indicated that no final written report had been prepared by Grant Thornton. If no written report was prepared, we would like to know how this raw data and the other results of the study were transmitted to the Department, and what exactly the contractor did to earn its fees. Furthermore, we have recently learned that several additional consultants have been working on various aspects of this issue. For example, Booz Allen Hamilton was hired to provide assistance during the A-76 competition. We are interested in the work that consultants have done on the IIO A-76 study, and why DHS is unable to conduct a competition without the use of so many consultants. We are also concerned that an excessive reliance on contractors may impede the ability of DHS management to make an independent decision, one that maintains as a primary focus the Department’s central mission of protecting the nation. As the Comptroller General has pointed out, [c]onducting competitions as fairly, effectively, and efficiently as possible requires sufficient agency capacity–that is, a skilled workforce and adequate infrastructure and funding . . . Building this capacity will likely be a challenge, particularly for agencies that have not been heavily invested in competitive sourcing previously. (GAO-03-943T, page 7) Please respond to the following questions: 1. For each consultant retained by DHS to assist with the IIO matter, please describe the work that is being performed, the duration of the contracts, and the reasons the consultants were needed. 2. What written materials have been provided to DHS by these various consultants? Please include all reports, presentations, and work product in your reply. Where consultants have provided oral briefings to Department officials in lieu of written materials, we request a summary or staff briefing on the information provided to the Department. 3. How much has DHS paid to each of these consultants? If there were no final written reports, please delineate what products DHS received in exchange for the payments made by the Department. 4. Does the decision to hire several different contractors to facilitate the IIO competition reflect a shortage of DHS officials trained in conducting cost competitions? 5. Given the reliance of DHS on private contractors, as well as the arguably inadequate DHS capacity at present to conduct privatization reviews, how can Congress be assured that DHS managers will be able to seriously evaluate the recommendations offered by private contractors and make a truly independent decision that emphasizes, first and foremost, the fulfillment of the Department’s all-important mandate to ensure homeland security? Thank you for looking in to this matter, and we look forward to a prompt response. Sincerely,