Homeland Security: Observations on the Department of Homeland Security's Acquisition Organization and on the Coast Guard's Deepwater Program Page: 3 of 22
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Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:
Thank you for inviting me here today to discuss our reviews of the
Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) acquisition organization and
the U.S. Coast Guard's Deepwater program. When it was established in
March 2003, DHS faced the challenge of integrating 22 separate federal
agencies and organizations with multiple missions, values, and cultures
into one cabinet-level department.' The success of this mammoth task-
one of the biggest mergers ever to take place within the federal
government-rests in large part on DHS's ability to implement the
necessary management structure and processes for effectively acquiring
goods and services. A wide range of contractor-provided products,
technologies, and services are critical to the department's ability to
achieve its mission of protecting the nation from terrorism. For example,
DHS has purchased increasingly sophisticated screening equipment for air
passenger security, acquired technologies to secure the nation's borders,
and is upgrading the Coast Guard's offshore fleet of surface and air assets.
In January 2003, we designated DHS's implementation and transformation
as high risk because of the size and complexity of the effort and the
existing challenges faced by the components being merged into the
department.2 Although DHS has made some progress transforming its
components into a fully functioning department, this transformation
remains high risk.3 DHS has yet to implement a corrective action plan that
includes a comprehensive transformation strategy, and its management
systems-including those related to acquisition-are not yet integrated
and wholly operational. DHS's acquisition systems will require continued
attention to help prevent waste and ensure that DHS can allocate its
resources efficiently and effectively.
In fiscal year 2006, DHS reported obligating $15.6 billion in acquisitions,
making it the third largest federal department in spending taxpayer
dollars. DHS is undertaking large, complex investments as the federal
government increasingly relies on contractors for roles and missions
previously performed by government employees. Contractors have an
1 When the department was established, 22 agencies and organizations were brought in;
Plum Island Animal Disease Center joined DHS afterward as the 23rd.
2 GAO, High-Risk Series: An Update, GAO-03-119 (Washington, D.C.: January 2003).
3 GAO, High-Risk Series: An Update, GAO-07-310 (Washington, D.C.: January 2007).
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United States. Government Accountability Office. Homeland Security: Observations on the Department of Homeland Security's Acquisition Organization and on the Coast Guard's Deepwater Program, text, February 8, 2007; Washington D.C.. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc291110/m1/3/: accessed March 21, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.