DHS Acquisitions:

Additional Practices Could Help Components Better Develop Operational Requirements

GAO-18-550: Published: Aug 8, 2018. Publicly Released: Aug 8, 2018.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Marie A. Mak
(202) 512-4841
makm@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

The Department of Homeland Security invests billions of dollars each year in major acquisition programs to assist in executing its many critical missions. We’ve previously found that DHS agencies had acquisition programs that did not meet requirements. Sometimes operational requirements were poorly defined, increasing the risk of not meeting the needs of end users in the field, such as emergency responders.

We looked at seven DHS agencies and found that some meet GAO-identified best practices for defining operational requirements and others do not.

We made 25 recommendations to DHS to improve its agencies’ methods for developing requirements.

The Department of Homeland Security invests billions in major acquisitions, such as equipment for the Transportation Security Administration’s Passenger Screening Program

Photo of people at an airport going through a metal detector and other screening equipment

Photo of people at an airport going through a metal detector and other screening equipment

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Marie A. Mak
(202) 512-4841
makm@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

What GAO Found

GAO has identified several best practices to ensure that operational requirements for acquisitions are well-defined and found some Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) components met them while others did not. These practices include a formal policy for developing requirements, an independent requirements organization, and an understanding of workforce needs and training. The table below shows GAO's assessment of seven of DHS's components against these practices.

GAO Assessment of Selected DHS Components Requirements Infrastructure

 

Policy

Independent organization

Workforce assessment

Training

Customs and Border Protection

Federal Emergency Management Agency

Immigration and Customs Enforcement

National Protection and Programs Directorate

Transportation Security Administration

U.S. Coast Guard

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

Key: ● Practice is present ◒ Practice is in development or needs updating ○ Practice is not present

Source: GAO assessment of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) data. | GAO-18-550

Establishing a formal policy to guide the process is critical to developing well-defined requirements. However, only the Coast Guard has an approved policy for requirements development among the seven components reviewed. Without well-defined requirements, components are at risk of acquiring capabilities that will not meet mission needs. DHS officials told GAO that components have generally prioritized obtaining funding and starting programs over developing requirements.

Three components have a requirements development organization, separating requirements from acquisition in addressing capability gaps. Officials from components without such organizations told GAO that they have fewer major acquisitions and rely on DHS to assist in requirements development. DHS policy and best practices, however, maintain the importance of this separation regardless of the number of major acquisitions to guard against possible bias by acquisition officials toward a specific materiel solution.

Two components have assessed requirements development workforce needs, but both need to be updated; and one component has provided requirements development training and certification. Other component officials told GAO that they lack the resources necessary to take these steps. Best practices indicate that without an appropriately sized and trained workforce, components remain at risk of acquiring capabilities that fail to meet end user needs.

Why GAO Did This Study

GAO has previously found that DHS's components had acquisition programs that did not meet requirements and that those requirements were, in some cases, poorly defined. Poorly defined requirements increase the risk that acquisitions will not meet the needs of users in the field—for example, border patrol agents or emergency responders.

GAO was asked to examine DHS components' practices for developing requirements. This report addresses the policies, organizations, and workforce that selected DHS components use to develop requirements for their acquisition programs.

GAO selected seven DHS components with significant acquisition programs and a non-generalizable sample of programs—based on cost, component, and acquisition phase—as case studies. GAO analyzed policies and program documentation; and interviewed DHS and component officials, as well as end users of DHS programs. GAO compared components' practices to industry best practices and federal internal control standards.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is making 25 recommendations, including to individual components to establish policies and independent organizations for requirements development, assess workforce needs, and establish training and certifications. DHS concurred with all the recommendations.

For more information, contact Marie A. Mak at (202) 512-4841 or makm@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of DHS should ensure that the Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection through the Executive Assistant Commissioner for Operations Support finalizes and promulgates the Customs and Border Protection's draft policy for requirements development. (Recommendation 1)

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of DHS should ensure that the Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection through the Executive Assistant Commissioner for Operations Support updates the 2013 workforce assessment to account for the independent requirements organization's current workforce needs. (Recommendation 2)

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  3. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of DHS should ensure that the Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection through the Executive Assistant Commissioner for Operations Support establishes component specific training for requirements development. (Recommendation 3)

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  4. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of DHS should ensure that the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency establishes a policy for requirements development. (Recommendation 4)

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  5. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of DHS should ensure that the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency establishes an independent requirements development organization within the Federal Emergency Management Agency. (Recommendation 5)

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  6. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of DHS should ensure that the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency updates the 2016 workforce assessment to account for an independent requirements organization's workforce needs. (Recommendation 6)

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  7. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of DHS should ensure that the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency establishes component specific training for requirements development. (Recommendation 7)

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  8. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of DHS should ensure that the Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement establishes a policy for requirements development. (Recommendation 8)

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  9. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of DHS should ensure that the Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement establishes the planned independent requirements development organization within Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (Recommendation 9)

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  10. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of DHS should ensure that the Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement conducts a workforce assessment to account for an independent requirements organization's workforce needs. (Recommendation 10)

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  11. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of DHS should ensure that the Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement establishes component specific training for requirements development. (Recommendation 11)

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  12. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of DHS should ensure that the Under Secretary of Homeland Security for the National Protection and Programs Directorate finalizes and promulgates the National Protection and Programs Directorate's draft policy for requirements development. (Recommendation 12)

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  13. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of DHS should ensure that the Under Secretary of Homeland Security for the National Protection and Programs Directorate establishes the planned independent requirements development organization within the National Protection and Programs Directorate. (Recommendation 13)

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  14. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of DHS should ensure that the Under Secretary of Homeland Security for the National Protection and Programs Directorate conducts a workforce assessment to account for an independent requirements organization's workforce needs. (Recommendation 14)

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  15. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of DHS should ensure that the Under Secretary of Homeland Security for the National Protection and Programs Directorate establishes component specific training for requirements development. (Recommendation 15)

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  16. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of DHS should ensure that the Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration through the Executive Assistant Administrator of Operations Support finalizes and promulgates the Transportation Security Administration's draft policy for requirements development. (Recommendation 16)

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  17. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of DHS should ensure that the Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration through the Executive Assistant Administrator of Operations Support conducts a workforce assessment to account for an independent requirements organization's workforce needs. (Recommendation 17)

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  18. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of DHS should ensure that the Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration through the Executive Assistant Administrator of Operations Support establishes component specific training for requirements development. (Recommendation 18)

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  19. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of DHS should ensure that the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard through the Assistant Commandant for Capability conducts a workforce assessment of the U.S. Coast Guard's capabilities directorate. (Recommendation 19)

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  20. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of DHS should ensure that the Director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services finalizes and promulgates the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services's draft policy for requirements development. (Recommendation 20)

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  21. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of DHS should ensure that the Director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services establishes the planned independent requirements development organization within U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. (Recommendation 21)

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  22. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of DHS should ensure that the Director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services conducts a workforce assessment to account for an independent requirements organization's workforce needs. (Recommendation 22)

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  23. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of DHS should ensure that the Director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services establishes component specific training for requirements development. (Recommendation 23)

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  24. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of DHS should ensure that the Joint Requirements Council collaborate with components on their requirements development policies and, in partnership with the Under Secretary for Management, provide oversight to promote consistency across the components. (Recommendation 24)

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  25. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of DHS should ensure that training for requirements development is consistent by establishing training and certification standards for DHS and the components' requirements development workforces. (Recommendation 25)

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

 

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