More than 75 percent of major homeland security acquisition programs reviewed are meeting their most recent cost and schedule baselines though risks are present, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) says in its annual report assessing the Department of Homeland Security’s acquisition programs.
The report says 19 of 24 programs assessed were meeting their cost and schedule goals as of September 2020, although 10 programs had experienced a breach at some point during fiscal year 2020, which ended last September. Some of the breaches were due to COVID-19 impacts and others because of management issues, GAO says in the report, DHS Annual Assessment: Most Acquisition Programs Are Meeting Goals but Data Provided to Congress Lacks Context Needed for Effective Oversight (GAO-21-175).
The five programs not meeting baseline goals are the EINSTEIN cyber intrusion detection and prevention system, the Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology (HART) biometric database and matching system, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Grants Modernization Program, the Science and Technology Directorate’s National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, and the Coast Guard’s Medium Range Surveillance Aircraft.
EINSTEIN, which is managed by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, suffers from cost and schedule breaches due to an agency reorganization, “rapidly changing priorities,” and previously inaccurate reporting on sunk costs. The current life cycle cost estimate of EINSTEIN is $6.4 billion, but CISA told GAO last August that it plans to restructure the program.
CISA also told GAO the program is facing staffing challenges that could lead to further delays.
The HART program is overseen by the Office of Biometric Identity Management with Northrop Grumman [NOC] as the prime contractor. The program is also experiencing a cost and schedule breach, GAO says, noting that initial operating capability was planned for December 2020, two years later than originally estimated. A new date for IOC hasn’t been established.
HART will replace the aging IDENT system, which is costly to operate and maintain and can’t scale easily to meet increasing demand for storage and use.
“This is a significant challenge because IDENT is at risk of failure and additional investments are necessary to keep the system operational,” GAO says of the delays in the HART program.
As of May 2020, the life-cycle cost estimate of HART stood at $4.3 billion, about $400 million higher than the May 2018 approved baseline. Program delays are also postponing plans for a new contract to additional capabilities to HART, GAO says.
The Coast Guard’s Medium Range Surveillance Aircraft, which consists of 18 HC-144A and 14 C-27J aircraft, is also in breach of cost and schedule goals due to contracting delays in installing a new mission system processor on the first two C-27s and completing hardware design instructions for production.
GAO provides detailed assessments of 28 programs in its report, including the Coast Guard’s new heavy polar icebreaker, the Polar Security Cutter (PSC), which continues to be at risk due to concerns that the ship’s design maturity could impact production.
Citing Coast Guard program officials, the report says shipbuilder VT Halter Marine experienced delays due to COVID and that if the design doesn’t mature as planned it could “experience construction and delivery delays.” The Coast Guard has said that ship construction is planned to begin early this year.
The first PSC is scheduled for delivery in May 2024, two months later than the program baseline. The baseline, including costs and schedule, is being revised, GAO says.