Nearly half of the major acquisition programs at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reviewed by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in 2015 were meeting current cost and schedule targets but overall the department’s “execution and affordability concerns endure,” says the auditing agency in a new report.
Of the 25 programs reviewed by the GAO, 11 are meeting schedule and cost performance goals, that’s up from two in 2014, according to the new report and another by the agency a year ago that examined acquisition programs at DHS. Of the remaining programs reviewed, eight experienced schedule or cost slips, or both, with life-cycle cost estimates rising $1.7 billion, and the other six programs still lack Approved Program Baselines (APB), thereby preventing GAO from assessing whether these programs were on track with respect to schedule and cost targets.
The 11 programs on target with respect to cost and schedule are Customs and Border Protection’s Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) and TECS Modernization, the National Protection and Programs Directorate’s (NPPD) National Cybersecurity Protection System, more commonly known as EINSTEIN, the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) explosives detection system program for checked baggage screening, the Science and Technology Directorate’s National Bo And Agro-Defense Facility that is under construction, and the Coast Guard’s National Security Cutter, Fast Response Cutter, C4ISR, HH-65 helicopter conversion and sustainment projects, and the HC-130H/J long-range surveillance aircraft program. The report is entitled Homeland Security Acquisitions: DHS Has Strengthened Management, but Execution and Affordability Concerns Endure (GAO-16-338SP).
A year ago just CBP’s ACE electronic trade portal and TSA’s Electronic Baggage Screening Program were on target to meet initial cost and schedule goals, GAO said then. The new report says the NCPS program faces a staffing shortfall of 42 percent, which limit the ability to test the latest version of EINSTEIN “against security requirements, oversee contractors, and manage its finances.” Program officials believe that through new hiring actions staffing shortfalls will be reduced to 10 to 15 percent in the coming months.
In the new report, the programs not on schedule and or cost are CBP’s Integrated Fixed Tower (IFT) program, NPPD’s Continuous Diagnostics & Mitigation (CDM) cyber security program and the Next Generation Networks Priority Services, TSA’s Passenger Screening Program (PSP) for airport checkpoints and the agency’s Technology Infrastructure Modernization, the DHS Office of the Chief Information Officer’s Homeland Security Information Network, the Coast Guard’s Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC), and United States Citizenship and Immigration Service’s Transformation.
Cost estimates for the IFT program, which is a surveillance system being deployed along a portion of Arizona’s border with Mexico, went from $288 million in Jan. 2015 to $341 million in Jan. 2016. However, the expected life-cycle cost has gone from $961 million in March 2012 down to $749 million in Jan. 2016.
The report also says that there is a gap of well over $100 million in planned funding and estimated costs for the program although CBP officials tell GAO that “projected funding levels will increase going forward, explaining that both CBP and DHS headquarters plan to allocate additional funding to the program.”
GAO also says that CBP has added one additional IFT unit, essentially a surveillance tower, to the current plan bringing the total to 53 although there could be changes to each specific area of responsibility depending on assessments by the Border Patrol, which uses the system. GAO also says that this year CBP has said it needs four additional full time IFT program staff and that “Program officials also noted that post-deployment activities may require more resources than currently anticipated if the program’s schedule is accelerated.”
Full operational capability of the system is slated for Sept. 2020, a nearly five-year delay from original plans in March 2012.
The cost estimates for the CDM program increased the most, going from $1.6 billion a year ago to $2.7 billion currently, GAO says. The program is managed by DHS for the entire federal civilian government and includes sensors to monitor agencies’ networks for vulnerabilities and dashboards to help agency personnel to determine which vulnerabilities should be addressed first.
Citing agency officials, GAO notes that the CDM and OPC programs suffered schedule slippages due to protests over contract awards. Sill, the report says that CDM slipped six months in 2015 yet is two year and five months behind schedule while the OPC program was delayed four months in 2015 but is one year and one month behind schedule.
Initial operational capability for CDM has slipped from July 2014 until Dec. 2016 due to delays in preparing the initial solicitation and selecting vendors as well as a protest of the first award. IOC will occur once sensors and dashboards have been delivered to five agencies.
The six programs without APBs are CBP’s Land Border Integration, Non-Intrusive Inspection (NII) systems, Strategic Air and Marine program that is being discontinued, and Tactical Communications Modernization, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Logistics Supply Chain Management System, and the Coast Guard’s Medium Range Surveillance Aircraft, which includes the HC-144A and C-27J aircraft. These same programs lacked APBs a year ago as well.
The NII program consists of large and small-scale inspection systems deployed at air, sea and land ports of entry to scan containers, vehicles and parcels. GAO says that as of Jan. 2016 DHS has approved CBP’s APB although agency officials say the program may need to be re-baselined if the program continues to get less funding than required.
Funding shortfalls have caused the planned date for full operational capability to slip five years until FY ’24, GAO says, adding that “anticipated funding shortfalls continue to be its greatest risk.” CBP also tells GAO that the NII program only has about 56 percent of the staff it needs.
Between Jan. 2015 and Jan. 2016 the NII acquisition cost estimate increased by $500 million to $1.9 billion and the live-cycle cost estimate rose $200 million to $4.5 billion. CBP has increased the total procurement quantity for NII systems from 9,427 to 11,448.
The report says that just over half, 14, of the 25 programs reviewed are projected to receive at least 93 percent of the funding they need through FY ’20. Another 10 programs though are expected to have a funding gap exceeding 10 percent during this period, including five Coast Guard programs—C4ISR, HH-65 conversion, long and medium-range surveillance aircraft, and the OPC—facing a 40 percent funding shortfall, it says.
GAO says TSA’s PSP program—which consists of a number of technology systems at airport security checkpoints—has experienced delays in two programs, Credential Authentication Technology (CAT) and the Advanced Imaging Technology X-Ray (AIT-2) systems used to screen passengers. Performance issues and new cyber security requirements have delayed CAT achieving full operational capability by four years until June 2018. The full operational capability for AIT-2 schedule slipped 18 months until June 2017 because vendors haven’t submitted test documentation on time, GAO says.