Department of Homeland Security:

Progress and Challenges in Implementing the Department's Acquisition Oversight Plan

GAO-07-900: Published: Jun 13, 2007. Publicly Released: Jun 13, 2007.

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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the third largest department in federal procurement spending in fiscal year 2006, has faced ongoing cost, schedule, and performance problems with major acquisitions and procurement of services. In December 2005, DHS established an acquisition oversight program to provide insight into and improve components' acquisition programs. In 2006, GAO reported that DHS faced challenges in implementing its program. Congress mandated that DHS develop an oversight plan and tasked GAO with analyzing the plan. GAO (1) evaluated actions DHS and its components have taken to implement the acquisition oversight plan and (2) identified implementation challenges. GAO also identified opportunities for strengthening oversight conducted through the plan. GAO reviewed relevant DHS documents and GAO and DHS Inspector General reports and interviewed officials in the office of the Chief Procurement Officer (CPO) and nine DHS components.

The CPO has taken several actions to implement DHS's acquisition oversight plan--which generally incorporates basic principles of an effective and accountable acquisition function. The plan monitors acquisition performance through four recurring reviews: self-assessment, operational status, on-site, and acquisition planning. Each component has completed the first self-assessment, which has helped components identify and prioritize acquisition weaknesses. In addition, each component has submitted an initial operational status report to the CPO and on-site reviews are being conducted. Despite this progress, the acquisition planning reviews are not sufficient to determine if components adequately plan their acquisitions--in part because a required review has not been implemented and the CPO lacks visibility into components' planning activities. DHS faces two key challenges in implementing its acquisition oversight plan. First, the CPO has had limited oversight resources to implement plan reviews. However, recent increases in staff have begun to address this challenge. Second, the CPO lacks sufficient authority to ensure components comply with the plan--despite being held accountable for departmentwide management and oversight of the acquisition function. GAO has previously recommended that DHS provide the CPO with sufficient enforcement authority to enable effective acquisition oversight. In addition to these challenges, GAO identified two opportunities to strengthen internal controls for overseeing the plan's implementation and for increasing knowledge sharing. Specifically, independent evaluations of DHS's oversight program could help ensure that the plan maintains its effectiveness over time. Sharing knowledge and lessons learned could provide DHS's acquisition workforce with the information needed to improve their acquisition processes and better achieve DHS's mission.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In providing comments on this report, DHS concurred with this recommendation. According to representatives of the Chief Procurement Officer (OCPO), DHS has reevaluated its approach and amended provisions in the Homeland Security Acquisition Manual pertaining to the oversight of acquisition plans. Pursuant to this change, acquisition plans over $300 million are subject to OCPO review and approval. Moreover, this change provides for OCPO to review and approve any plan and conduct oversight reviews of selected acquisition plans under $300 million.

    Recommendation: To improve oversight of component acquisition planning processes and the overall effectiveness of the acquisition oversight plan, the Chief Procurement Officer, Department of Homeland Security, should reevaluate the approach to oversight of acquisition planning reviews and determine whether the mechanisms under the plan are sufficient to monitor component actions and improve component acquisition planning efforts.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Office of the Chief Procurement Officer

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In providing comments on this report, the agency concurred with this recommendation, however, as of June 2009, Chief Procurement Office representatives said they do not have plans to take action necessary to implement it.

    Recommendation: To improve oversight of component acquisition planning processes and the overall effectiveness of the acquisition oversight plan, the Chief Procurement Officer, Department of Homeland Security, should request a periodic external assessment of the oversight plan implementation and ensure findings are communicated to and addressed by appropriate officials.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Office of the Chief Procurement Officer

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In providing comments on this report, DHS concurred with this recommendation. In September, 2009, The Office of the Chief Procurement Officer (OCPO) issued a memorandum to the DHS component Heads of Contracting Activity summarizing the results of the oversight reviews. The memo contained lessons learned from OCPO oversight reviews, including best practices.

    Recommendation: To improve oversight of component acquisition planning processes and the overall effectiveness of the acquisition oversight plan, the Chief Procurement Officer, Department of Homeland Security, should develop additional opportunities to share lessons learned from oversight reviews with DHS components.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Office of the Chief Procurement Officer

 

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