House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said the federal government has spent more than $525 billion on Information Technology (IT) since President Obama took office and has little to show for it.
“I can tell you, I’ve gone through almost every department and agency, it doesn’t work. It creates great massive vulnerabilities and, specifically to TSA, it’s a very visible part of when the public comes in contact with the federal government,” Chaffetz said at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
“I have very deep concerns about Homeland Security overall because it was supposed to post-9/11 come together, bring these various agencies together and have better coordination. But what we’ve seen is this rapid decrease in morale,” he added.
Chaffetz specifically warned about the dangers of a cyberattack targeting the Education Department, adding that it manages too many information systems.
“If you apply for a student loan you are sending this information, not only about yourself, but about Mom, about Dad and all the investments, all the account numbers, all the assets that you have,” he said. “They have how many of these records? Almost half of America’s records are sitting at the Department of Education. I think ultimately that’s going to be the largest data breach that we’ve ever seen in the history of our nation.”
Addressing the body scanners the TSA currently uses, Chaffetz said the best way to find an explosive device is a dog. Chaffetz argued that “behavioral profiling,” metal detectors and K-9s would improve security.
“Dogs don’t have lobbyists, so we have purchased literally hundreds of millions of dollars of equipment and it doesn’t work and that scares me. It scares the living daylights out of me, and we’re providing oversight to that and I still think they are failing to do what they should do,” he said.
According to Chaffetz, when improvised explosive devices were being used to blow people up during the war in Afghanistan, the Department of Defense created the Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Agency, which concluded dogs are the most effective.
“They spent billions of dollars to defeat these and the single best conclusion they came to is the dog. The dog does this better than anything else,” he said. “Do you see dogs in every airport? No, you don’t, and that’s a shame because it’s 10 years of wasted assets and hundreds of millions of dollars going into machines that do not work – they just provide theater and do not actually secure the airports.”
Chaffetz said one of the most notable actions of his committee last year was the “very deep investigation” into the Secret Service.
“They hadn’t had any oversight and I think they suffered because of it,” Chaffetz said.
When asked about the status of the Secret Service in the aftermath of the investigation, he said the agency has more work to do.
“They’ve got to turn that ship around. Training is a huge part of it. You know what the average training time for a Secret Service agent – you take the training for the agents, the officers and average it all out – what is the average amount of time a Secret Service agent spends in training over the course of the year? It’s 25 minutes,” he said.
Chaffetz explained that he would support more funding to help with their training, given that an officer at an average metropolitan police department spends 10 percent of their time training.