DHS is hit where it hires

A contract dispute between the Homeland Security Department and Monster, a company that provides Web-based job search capabilities, isn't over yet.

DHS officials have not given details of how the dispute has hurt their hiring efforts, but in May, they terminated a contract with Monster Government Solutions (MGS), a subsidiary of Monster Worldwide. Monster owns the QuickHire system that DHS and more than 100 other federal agencies use to enable job seekers to apply online for federal positions.

DHS officials said they canceled the contract with Monster after they were unable to access much of the data 232,000 registered users submitted to three of DHS' divisions: Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS).

Chris McCarrick, MGS' general manager, said the company has honored its promise to deliver all applicant data to CBP. But in a June 21 letter, DHS warned company officials that the department would seek all damages it was entitled to receive under law. MGS has 90 days from the date of the termination notice. The company expects to appeal by the Aug. 18 deadline, McCarrick said.

CBP started using QuickHire in 2001. Last August, the agency began providing QuickHire services to ICE and CIS, McCarrick said. The system crashed Jan. 26.

"We can handle the volume, but it's the nature of the volume that caused the problems with Customs," McCarrick said. The number of applicants and the large size and different formats of the applications led to unanticipated problems, he said.

According to an April 29 "cure notice" that CBP sent to Monster, CBP took the applicant side of QuickHire off-line March 23. MGS and CBP officials agreed that month on a plan to fix the problems with QuickHire, McCarrick said.

The company attempted many fixes, including manually monitoring the system and offloading 2 million data records. None of the repairs worked, according to CBP.

For MGS to have kept the contract, it would have had to provide a tested and fully operational system.

In a May 19 letter, CBP states that MGS had failed to do so and that CBP employees were still being bumped or frozen out of the system.

CBP had sent the April cure notice when MGS was still working on a remediation plan. In the notice, CBP moved the final delivery date forward by about two weeks, McCarrick said. The notice also includes new performance metrics that had not been in the original remediation plan, he said.

To work around the problems with QuickHire, CBP has been using the USA Staffing System, a hiring application run by the Office of Personnel Management. That system was initially more expensive to use than QuickHire because CBP had to pay OPM for the services it provided.

Since then, however, CBP officials have bought a software license for the system and trained people to operate it, which has brought down the cost. CBP officials said they have made no decision about a permanent replacement for QuickHire.

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