WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., Senator Daniel Akaka, D-HI., and Senator George Voinovich, R-Oh., Thursday expressed concern that DHS’ SBInet program faces significant management challenges that could undermine its effectiveness.
SBInet is part of the DHS’ Secure Border Initiative, a multiyear, multibillion effort to secure U.S. borders. Managed by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), SBInet is developing a comprehensive border protection system of security infrastructure and surveillance and communication technologies. DHS estimates that it will need $7.6 billion through 2011 to acquire and deploy the necessary technology and fencing along the Southwest border. Project 28 is intended to demonstrate SBInet technology across a 28-mile stretch of the Arizona-Mexico border.
In anticipation of the Department’s final approval of Project 28 and the planned investment of at least $64 million for the next phase of SBInet’s development, the senators sent a letter to DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff, questioning the failure by CBP to establish firm operational requirements before initiating Project 28 and whether such requirements will be addressed in the next phase. The senators also cited an overreliance on contractors as one of their chief concerns with the overall SBInet Program, raising issues about whether DHS can properly oversee the project.
“Securing our borders is an important homeland security priority; however, wise use of taxpayer dollars requires that the SBInet project have clearly defined goals and expectations, and that the Department provide assurances to Congress that these investments will result in a system that fully meets CBP’s needs,” the letter stated. “Therefore, we urge the Department to provide greater clarity on CBP’s operational objectives for SBInet and the projected milestones and anticipated costs for the project.”
Following is a copy of the letter:
January 31, 2008
The Honorable Michael Chertoff
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528
Dear Secretary Chertoff:
We are writing to inquire about the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) recent “conditional” acceptance of SBInet’s Project 28 (P28) and subsequent SBInet development efforts. In addition, we are concerned with the capacity of the SBI Program Management Office (PMO) to provide adequate management and oversight of SBI activities.
There is a real and pressing need to develop enhanced measures to effectively secure our borders. The Department’s proposal through SBInet to deploy new border control technology and to add additional layers of traditional security infrastructure will play a critical technological role in accomplishing this goal. SBInet’s P28 project was designed to demonstrate the system’s capabilities by deploying sensor towers and unattended ground systems and upgrading existing CBP vehicles and communications systems along 28 miles of border in Arizona. P28 was to be operational by June 2007, but integrating the various sensors and developing needed software proved far more challenging than expected. Several staff from our committee visited SBInet facilities along the Southwest border in October 2007 and found that while progress was being made to implement P28, a considerable amount of work and testing remained.
On December 7, 2007, DHS announced that it had “conditionally” accepted P28 and begun a 45-day period in which CBP personnel would test the system’s functionality and usefulness prior to final acceptance. CBP and SBInet officials subsequently informed our staff that this conditional acceptance was based on a determination that Boeing had met objectives developed as part of the P28 task order. SBInet officials also noted, however, that CBP’s operational requirements were not formally documented until mid-2007, months after the P28 task order was issued and, therefore, could not be used as the basis for the project’s development. We are troubled that DHS initiated the P28 project without first having CBP develop a set of firm operational requirements.
Further, SBInet and CBP personnel stated that they plan to make upgrades and improvements to the P28 system to meet CBP’s needs. For example, on the same day it conditionally accepted P28, DHS announced that it was issuing a $64 million task order to fund the initial fourteen months of an expected 3-year effort to enhance the P28 system’s Common Operating Picture software, and planned to make other unspecified hardware changes. As CBP prepares to move forward with these new development efforts, it remains unclear to what extent CBP’s operational requirements will be met at the conclusion of these efforts. To ensure that taxpayer funds are used effectively, it is imperative that DHS have a concrete understanding of how SBInet will be integrated into CBP operations and serve the needs of Border Patrol agents.
Properly managing and overseeing such a complex technology development effort requires that DHS have a sufficient number of skilled acquisition and oversight personnel. Nevertheless, GAO reported that as of September 30, 2007, the SBI PMO fell short of its staffing goal of 270 individuals by about 8 percent. Moreover, of the 247 individuals that were onboard, 134 were contract support employees. At the Committee’s October 17 hearing on DHS’s reliance on contractors, DHS agreed it must have the capacity to provide adequate oversight of contractor support employees. With those employees composing more than half of the individuals assigned to the SBI PMO at this critical stage of development, we are concerned that DHS may not have adequate oversight of contractor support and of the SBInet program.
Securing our borders is an important homeland security priority; however, wise use of taxpayer dollars requires that the SBInet project have clearly defined goals and expectations, and that the Department provide assurance to Congress that these investments will result in a system that fully meets CBP’s needs. Therefore, we urge the Department to provide greater clarity on CBP’s operational objectives for SBInet and the projected milestones and anticipated costs for the project.
We look forward to receiving a timely response to the attached questions and thank you in advance for your cooperation. If you have questions about this request, please contact Troy Cribb of the Committee’s majority staff at (202) 224-2627 or Rob Strayer on the minority staff at (202) 224-5571.
1. Please provide a copy of the Boeing SBI contract, including modifications, or a conformed contract.
2. Please provide a list of all task or delivery orders issued against the SBI contract to date. For each task or delivery order, please provide:
a. a brief description of the work to be performed;
b. the contract type;
c. the date the order was issued; and
d. the initial estimated cost and current estimated cost at completion, and the reasons for any cost growth.
3. Please provide a copy of the P28 task order, including any modifications, and any modifications to task order HSBP1208J19363, dated December 7, 2007, to further develop the Common Operating Picture (COP) software.
4. Task order HSBP1208J19363 provides an opportunity for Boeing to earn up to 10 percent of the estimated cost of the contract in award fees. CBP reserved the right to roll-over any unearned fees to the second evaluation period. In December 2007, the Office of Federal Procurement Policy issued guidance to all agencies noting that “rolling over fees is not the preferred method for incentivizing the contractor to perform above satisfactorily and should be permitted on a limited basis….” Please discuss the rationale for allowing rollover on the task order.
5. Does CBP anticipate issuing task orders for additional P28-related work in fiscal year 2008? If so, please provide a brief summary of the work to be performed, and the estimated cost of the work.
P28 System Performance and Testing
1. Please provide a copy of the CBP’s operational requirements document.
2. Has DHS, CBP or Boeing compared the requirements reflected in CBP’s operational requirements document with the P28’s technical requirements? If so, please provide a copy of that comparison.
3. Please provide a brief explanation of the P28 system verification test results that enabled CBP to conditionally accept P28. Specifically, please explain how CBP determined that Boeing met the performance capabilities reflected in Boeing’s proposal.
4. Were any issues identified by CBP personnel during the test period that followed DHS’ conditional acceptance? If so, please identify such issues and the time frames by which they will be resolved. What hardware or software changes will be made to the current Project 28 configuration under the next phase of the project?
5. Task order HSBP1208J19363 indicates that Boeing is to further develop the COP software and assist the government in achieving a command, control and communication capability. Under the task order, Boeing will incrementally add “functionality and/or an evolutionary improvement in system capability”. The initial period of performance under the task order is fourteen months, with additional, unpriced contract line items that could extend the period of performance to three years.
a. Please explain the difference between the work to be performed during the initial period of performance and the work to be performed and the additional capabilities to be achieved under the additional contract line items.
b. At what point during the execution of this task order does DHS expect that the COP system will fully meet CBP’s operational requirements?
c. If all line items are exercised, what is the expected cost of the task order? Has CBP budgeted sufficient funds for such costs?
6. Which contractor(s) are responsible for developing the COP software?
7. Please describe the intellectual property or technical data rights acquired by the government for P28-related hardware or software, including the COP. Has DHS or CBP formally assessed whether such rights would be sufficient to develop a second supplier and/or maintain the current P28 hardware and software using government personnel?
SBI Program Management
1. What is the number of authorized full-time equivalent (FTEs) government employees allocated to the SBI PMO and the number of FTEs actually onboard as of January 15, 2008?
2. Please provide the name of the contractors providing support to the SBI PMO. How many contractor employees are currently supporting the SBI PMO? Please provide a brief description of the work being performed by each of the contractors. What policies does CBP have in place to prevent and mitigate conflicts of interest that may arise from SBI PMO’s reliance on contractors?
3. Please discuss the status of the SBI PMO’s human capital planning efforts, or, if completed, please provide a copy of the SBI PMO Human Capital Plan. To what extent do these efforts identify a need for additional CBP employees? Are there specific positions or skill sets that CPB is unable to fill?
4. Has CPB formally assessed the risk that relying on contractors to perform such work may pose? Please describe the steps CBP is taking to mitigate any risks that were identified.
5. Does DHS consider Boeing to be playing the role of a lead systems integrator on the SBI program?
6. DHS recently decided to locate the Secure Border Coordination Office within the CBP, rather than at a higher organizational level within DHS. Does this organizational placement provide the office with sufficient authority and visibility to coordinate and manage SBI-related efforts across DHS and with other agencies?