WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Maine, Thursday said the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) must make better use of independent, third party assessments of whether large IT acquisitions meet the goals they were designed for and can fulfill their intended missions.
The Senators’ comments came with the public release of a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on a process known as “Independent Verification and Validation” (IV&V) – a well-regarded management and oversight tool that DHS employs for large-scale, high-risk, and complex acquisitions and which Congress has required for some past projects.
“With a serious debt crisis on our hands, the Department of Homeland Security – like every other agency of the federal government – must stop wasteful spending,” Lieberman said. “The Department’s $6 billion annual budget for IT acquisitions is a good place to start. This GAO report uncovers a series of weaknesses in the Department’s method for independently assessing complex and costly IT acquisitions. Independent Verification & Validation can be an extremely effective management tool, and I am determined to see DHS use it properly to reduce the risk of cost overruns, delays, and errors inherent in large-scale systems acquisitions.”
Collins said: “Cutting-edge information technology can help to keep our country safe, but the list of ill-considered government purchases is long. That’s why independent reviews of major acquisition programs are so important. For fiscal year 2010 alone, the Department of Homeland Security spent more than $6 billion on 348 IT-related programs. GAO’s findings demonstrate the Department is not doing everything it can to ensure that money spent by American taxpayers on such programs is spent efficiently and effectively. I will continue to push for improvements in this critical area. Smarter investments can save money and make us safer.”
GAO found that DHS has not outlined a set of risk-based criteria for deciding when to use IV&V, and that the Department has no guidance to ensure that IV&V embodies the independence required to provide an unbiased review.
GAO also found that at the headquarters level, DHS officials are unaware of the extent to which IV&V is being used throughout the Department, or whether IV&V is producing satisfactory results.
DHS spent $6.3 billion in Fiscal Year 2010 on 348 IT-related programs and 53 major acquisitions.