DHS Officials Often Lack 'Information Necessary to Make Sound Decisions,' Chairman Says

WASHINGTON – The chairman of a House subcommittee that oversees the beleaguered Department of Homeland Security maintains the agency needs to look at adopting the “proven techniques and practices of successful commercial firms” to avoid the sort of “high-profile failures” that have plagued the department.

Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), chairman of the House Oversight and Management Efficiency Subcommittee, said during a hearing on DHS practices that DHS, since its creation in 2002, consistently has failed to “hold components accountable” and that officials often lack “the information necessary to make sound decisions.”

“From the outset, DHS faced significant challenges, including consolidating 22 preexisting component agencies, reporting to a multitude of congressional committees and working diligently to strike the balance between national security and protecting privacy and civil liberties,” Perry said.

But those initial difficulties have been rendered worse by the agency’s “longstanding failure to adhere to strong management practices,” Perry said.

The Secure Border Initiative Network, an integrated system of personnel, infrastructure, technology and rapid response to secure the northern and southern borders initiated in 2006, ended five years later after “wasting a billion dollars,” Perry said.

Another major failure was the installation of “puffer machines” -- security devices for detecting explosives and illegal drugs – at the nation’s airports that were subsequently mothballed.

“Such mismanagement eroded public confidence in DHS and continues to hinder it today,” Perry said.

Lawmakers need to look anew at the department’s practices Perry said, because it has often “ignored risks and moved forward with unachievable programs leading to wasted taxpayer dollars and late, costly and unimpressive results.”

Perry cited two Inspector General reports released in August that concluded DHS has done a poor job tracking costs related to its warehouse inventory and conference spending. The agency could save $1 million through improved warehouse management practices.

“This might not seem like much to Washington bureaucrats, but my constituents in Pennsylvania would much prefer that money spent towards securing the border,” Perry said.

DHS, Perry said, “must learn from the proven techniques and practices of successful commercial firms.”

“Federal bureaucrats need to remember that the American people are their shareholders,” he said. “Their tax dollars must be safeguarded, not wasted. As the nation faces significant homeland security threats and our national debt continues to climb, we can afford no more mismanagement.”

Marc A. Pearl, president and CEO of the Homeland Security & Defense Business Council, told the subcommittee that it is “generally recognized that DHS needs more consistent department-wide processes and procedures to improve internal operations and become a more efficiently run organization.”

“DHS also needs measures that support industry-government dialogues that help ensure the government can effectively procure mission critical product and service solutions,” he said.

Pearl cited several problems within the agency that need to be addressed, the most obvious being a duplication of efforts.