WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, the top-ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, introduced a bill to permanently establish the Department of Homeland Security’s Joint Requirements Council, which ensures that the Department and its components coordinate on identified needs to avoid duplicative or other wasteful purchases.
The program was initially established in 2003, but languished for years before it was restarted in 2014. McCaskill’s bill will ensure the program is permanent and a priority for the agency. As just one example of its importance, the Inspector General pointed to a 2013 purchase where Customs and Border Protection and the Coast Guard both needed to upgrade their helicopters, but refused to coordinate. Had the Joint Requirements Council been in place, it could have saved the government approximately $126 million.
“When agencies work together before they make big purchases, they can avoid wasteful spending and duplication,” said McCaskill, a former Missouri State Auditor. “My commonsense bill enshrines this important program into law, which will help maximize the department’s spending on what’s most needed for national security.”
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spent over $33 billion in fiscal year 2017 on contractual services and supplies as well as acquisition of assets. The Department’s Joint Requirements Council was first created in 2003 to help reduce duplication and waste by bringing together leaders from various parts of the department – from U.S. Customs and Border Protection to the Federal Emergency Management Agency – in order to coordinate on requirements and processes for purchases and investments. The Council never became fully operational, and after the Government Accountability Office recommended that DHS restart the program, the agency did so in 2014. Since then, both the Government Accountability Office and DHS Inspector General have found that the Council plays a key role in improving agency purchases and reducing duplication and other waste. McCaskill’s bill will require DHS to maintain the Council as an essential part of the acquisition program and ensure ongoing participation from top DHS and component leaders at the beginning of the acquisition process.
Reducing waste, fraud, and abuse in the federal government—including at the Department of Homeland Security—has been a top priority for McCaskill as a leader of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The Senate has unanimously approved two of her bills with Republican Senator Steve Daines of Montana to target wasteful spending at DHS. McCaskill is conducting ongoing oversight over the Federal Emergency Management Agency to ensure that federal disaster funds are being effectively used to help communities rebuild following devastating hurricanes in Florida, Texas, and Puerto Rico. McCaskill has also called for answers about the Department of Homeland Security’s contract with uniform supplier VF Imagewear after reports that Border Patrol and U.S. taxpayers could be on the hook for over a million dollars in wasteful spending.
The text of McCaskill’s bill is available HERE.