Key Issues > Duplication & Cost Savings > GAO's Action Tracker > Department of Homeland Security Research and Development (2013-07)
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Homeland Security/Law Enforcement: Department of Homeland Security Research and Development (2013-07)

Better policies and guidance for defining, overseeing, and coordinating research and development investments and activities would help the Department of Homeland Security address fragmentation, overlap, and potential unnecessary duplication.

Action:

The Secretary of Homeland Security should develop and implement policies and guidance for defining and overseeing research and development (R&D) at the department to ensure that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) effectively oversees its R&D investment and efforts and reduces fragmentation, overlap, and the risk of unnecessary duplication. Such policies and guidance could be included as an update to the department's existing acquisition directive and should include the following elements: a well-understood definition of R&D that provides reasonable assurance that reliable accounting and reporting of R&D resources and activities for internal and external use are achieved; a description of the department's process and roles and responsibilities for overseeing and coordinating R&D investments and efforts; and a mechanism to track existing R&D projects and their associated costs across the department.

Progress:

DHS has developed policies and guidance for defining and overseeing R&D, as GAO recommended in September 2012. In April 2014, DHS issued a memorandum that included a newly developed definition for R&D and that also stated that its Science & Technology Directorate (S&T) was responsible for coordinating and integrating R&D activities throughout the department. In addition, in August 2015, DHS issued a memorandum that re-established the S&T Integrated Product Teams (IPT). The S&T used IPTs from late 2006 to around July 2011 as S&T’s primary mechanism for coordinating R&D. IPTs are tasked to identify DHS technological capability gaps and coordinate R&D to close those gaps across the mission areas of the department. IPTs are intended to help ensure that DHS is investing in nonduplicative technologies. Further, the IPTs are to report to DHS management on DHS’s ongoing R&D activities and guide S&T’s R&D work to meet the needs of DHS’s components. In August 2016, S&T also issued two guidance documents to implement the IPT process and define roles and responsibilities for coordinating R&D in the department. These documents provide an overview of how DHS is implementing processes and mechanisms to oversee DHS-wide R&D efforts to ensure that R&D is properly coordinated, tracked, and accounted for, and to ensure that duplicative projects are not undertaken. Additionally, in January 2017, DHS issued a R&D directive and instructions to formalize R&D reporting and coordination among components. These two documents are to provide the department with the IPT construct, roles, responsibilities, and processes for coordinating R&D activities across DHS mission areas, and intended outcomes. Further, these documents contain the R&D definitions that are to be used by all DHS components.  

In January 2016, S&T implemented both a R&D portfolio review process and a R&D project tracking system to better manage and track department-wide R&D. S&T’s portfolio review process provides relevant information to leadership using a project tracking database to collect information on R&D investments. The project data collected includes information related to trend analysis, customer/end user engagement, portfolio health, and resource allocation. In August 2017, DHS provided additional information on the mechanisms DHS recently implemented to track all DHS R&D projects and associated costs. This included guidance and a spreadsheet used to collect data on DHS components’ R&D projects and related costs. The information sufficiently demonstrates that DHS has established a mechanism that tracks all DHS R&D projects and related costs. As a result, DHS will know how much all of its components invest in R&D, helping the department to oversee R&D efforts across the department.

 

Implementing Entity:

Department of Homeland Security
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    • Chris Currie
    • Director, Homeland Security and Justice
    • curriec@gao.gov
    • (404) 679-1875