Coordination and management of research and development (R&D) activities across the Department of Homeland Security by the Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate is inconsistent and often ineffective, leading to potential duplication of efforts and an incomplete picture of these activities for DHS and Congress to consider, according to the department’s audit overseers.
There are three primary reasons for the lack of effective coordination and oversight of R&D by S&T, the Office of the Inspector General (IG) said in an audit released on Monday. The first reason cited is that not all department components submit information on their capability gaps, despite being required to do so, the IG said in the audit, which is dated Sept. 18.
For example, it said the Secret Service didn’t submit data on all of its classified R&D gaps because it didn’t think it had to, the IG said. It also said the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office has its own process for identifying its R&D gaps and didn’t participate in the S&T Integrated Product Team (IPT) process, which is the mechanism the directorate uses to identify, track coordinate R&D efforts across DHS.
The IG also said that S&T failed to enforce controls aimed at coordinating department-wide R&D efforts.
“In addition, although current guidance requires components to submit data on R&D activities, S&T officials told us the guidance did not give S&T the authority to compel components to do so,” the IG said, adding that “An incomplete profile of capability gaps hinders S&T’s ability to identify and understand the Department’s existing and emerging needs, as well as its ability to make informed investment decisions.”
S&T also lacks consistent policies and procedures to aggregate R&D data across DHS and doesn’t require components to use its tools to capture data, the IG said.
“These issues compiling R&D data contributed to S&T not reporting a comprehensive R&D profile to the Secretary of Homeland Security, and to DHS mission congressional statutory reporting deadlines,” the IG said.
The third reason cited for shortcomings in R&D coordination is a lack of oversight of the IPT process by S&T, said the IG, highlighting that the directorate only reviewed nine of 17 charters that “formalize the commitment of the IPT membership and describe each IPT’s mission, objectives, and outputs.” S&T’s IPT Operations office, which monitors the IPTs, told the IG it lacks the staffing to fulfill its mission.
The IG also said that S&T isn’t following one of its best practices for managing the IPT process, which includes having designated personnel responsible “to ensure R&D solutions are timely and appropriate to close the Department’s capability gaps.” S&T said it hasn’t carried out this practice because it is in the process of restructuring the IPT process.
The IG made three recommendations, all of which were agreed to by S&T. The recommendations include having S&T communicate its policy and procedures and controls related to its authorities for IPT processes, develop comprehensive tracking tools for a DHS-wide R&D profile, and develop an internal monitoring process to ensure that IPT Operations carry out their responsibilities for IPT program management.