The inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee today that the department “mismanaged” its program to prepare for a potential pandemic.
“First, we found that DHS did not adequately conduct a needs assessment before purchasing protective equipment and antiviral drugs. As a result, we could not determine the basis for DHS’s decisions regarding how much or what types of pandemic supplies to purchase, store or distribute,” Inspector General John Roth testified.
“As a result, DHS may have too much of some equipment and too little of others. For example, we found that DHS has a stockpile of about 350,000 white coverall suits and 16 million surgical masks, but hasn’t been able to demonstrate how either fits into their pandemic preparedness plans.”
The department, Roth said, “has a significant quantity of antiviral drugs, but, again, without a full understanding of the department’s needs in the event of a pandemic, we have no assurance that the quantity of drugs will be appropriate.”
“Second, DHS purchased much of the equipment and drugs without thinking through how these supplies would need to be replaced. The material DHS has purchased has a finite shelf life. For example, TSA’s stock of pandemic protective equipment includes about 200,000 respirators that are beyond the five-year usability date guaranteed by the manufacturer. In fact, the department believes that their entire stockpile of personal protective equipment will not be usable after 2015,” he continued.
“Likewise, the antiviral drugs DHS purchased are nearing the end of their effective life. DHS is attempting to extend that shelf life of these drugs through an FDA testing program, but the results of that are not guaranteed.”
The third finding in Roth’s audit found that DHS “did not manage its inventory of drugs or equipment.”
“As a result, DHS did readily know how much protective equipment and drugs it had on hand or where it was being stored. Drugs and equipment have gone missing, and conversely, our audit has found drugs in the DHS inventory that the department thought had been destroyed,” the inspector general said.
“We visited multiple sites and found drugs that were not being stored in a temperature-controlled environment. Because DHS cannot be assured that they were properly stored, they are in the process of recalling a significant quantity of them because they not — may not be safe or effective.”
Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) said it’s hard to tell constituents that America is prepared for an epidemic when reports like this come out.
“Almost all the equipment you cited in this report, in fact, is either out of date. It was — the purchasing made no sense. We don’t know the inventory. We don’t know who’s got it. And we don’t know who’s gonna get it,” Mica said.
“I’m always amazed that agencies like DHS don’t go to the General Accountability Office or something in advance to learn how to set up a protocol as opposed to waiting until they get audited later and find out that they didn’t do it correctly,” said Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.).