House bill aims to make Homeland Security spending more efficient

U.S. Reps. Scott Perry (R-PA), Michael McCaul (R-TX), Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) introduced legislation on Friday that would streamline the purchasing process for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in an effort to curb wasteful spending and save U.S. taxpayer dollars.

The bipartisan group of lawmakers came together to present the DHS Acquisition Accountability and Efficiency Act, which would require greater oversight on purchases made by the DHS, while still ensuring necessary flexibility and providing clarity on the processes to U.S. businesses.

“Congressional watchdogs continue to find failures in how DHS spends billions of taxpayer dollars on its major acquisition purchases,” Perry, chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency, said. “As a combat aviator having served in Iraq, I understand the importance of delivering tools to the field in a timely way. Frontline operators securing our borders, defending our shores and protecting our aviation systems should not wait years longer than promised for systems that don’t perform as intended. The American people also deserve strong accountability so that their hard-earned tax dollars are not put at risk.”

“As the federal government’s third-largest agency, it is imperative that the men and women who protect the United States at the Department of Homeland Security have the right tools to combat the multitude of threats that face our nation,”  McCaul, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said. “This bipartisan legislation will ensure better management of large purchases by the department and will strengthen the management programs to ultimately better secure the homeland and save taxpayer dollars. While Secretary (Jeh) Johnson is taking steps to improve DHS’ acquisition process through his Unity of Effort initiative, we can’t wait years to fix the department’s mismanaged acquisition programs. I thank Subcommittee Chairman Perry for his leadership on this important issue and am pleased to join my colleagues in introducing this bipartisan legislation.”

“Congress continues to see unmistakable signs that the Department of Homeland Security has not yet tackled serious problems with acquisition management,” Thompson, the committee’s ranking member, said. “How the department invests in the capabilities that frontline operators need for their critical missions needs reform and better oversight. Major acquisitions must produce better results, both in terms of affordability and effectiveness; we cannot continue to throw money at programs that have been unsuccessful. I am pleased to join my colleagues in co-sponsoring this legislation and thank Chairman Perry for introducing it.”

The legislation would overhaul the purchasing process of DHS with a number of new requirements, including:

• Authorizing the department’s chief acquisition officer, the undersecretary for management, to approve, halt, modify or cancel major acquisition programs as needed
• Requiring that every major acquisition program have an approved Acquisition Program Baseline (APB) document
• Codifying the Acquisition Review Board and requiring the board to validate the documents – including the APB – and review the cost, schedule and performance objectives of major acquisitions
• Requiring that a Multiyear Acquisition Strategy be included in each Future Years Homeland Security Program
• Authorizing the chief procurement officer to serve as the main liaison to industry and to oversee a certification and training program for DHS’ acquisition work force
• Compelling DHS to submit to Congress major acquisition programs that fail to meet cost, schedule or performance metrics through quarterly status and accountability reports
• Directing the department to find ways to streamline the acquisition process and strategically address issues regarding bid protest without creating any new offices or programs

• Instructing DHS to eliminate unnecessary duplication.

“American taxpayers expect federal agencies to operate efficiently and effectively, especially when it comes to national security,” Watson Coleman, ranking member of Perry’s subcommittee, said. “Unfortunately, the Department of Homeland Security’s acquisition process has yet to meet these expectations. The DHS Acquisition Accountability and Efficiency Act marks an important first step to improve this process. Specifically, the bill strengthens best-management practices to drive down cost and risk, expands opportunities for small businesses, calls on DHS to invest in acquisition personnel and resources, and toughens safeguards that prevent DHS from contracting with bad actors. I look forward to working with Chairman Perry and the full committee to inject necessary reforms in these essential national security programs.”