GAO: DHS hasn’t used expedited spending authority

The Homeland Security Department never used the streamlined acquisition procedures Congress gave it after the 2001 terrorist attacks and is willing to relinquish them, according to a letter the Government Accountability Office sent to Congress.

Section 833 of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 provides DHS with faster and more flexible spending abilities, which include:


  • Raising from $5 million to $7.5 million the ceiling on using special simplified procedures to buy property and services that DHS’ secretary considers commercial items under federal procurement laws.

  • Increasing from $100,000 to $300,000 the use of simplified acquisition procedures for contracts awarded and performed outside the United States.

  • Increasing from $100,000 to $200,000 the use of those procedures for contracts awarded and performed in the United States.

  • Raising from $2,500 to $7,500 the micro-purchase threshold, below which DHS does not need competitive quotes or to follow the Buy America Act. Only certain employees could be authorized to use this ability.

The authorities are scheduled to expire Sept. 30, 2007.

“According to the director of acquisition oversight at DHS, use of the special authorities has not been needed because existing authorities have been sufficient to meet DHS requirements,” William Woods, GAO’s director of acquisition sourcing management, wrote June 20.

The Federal Acquisition Regulation permits contracting without full and open competition if necessary reasons and approvals are acquired, DHS officials told GAO. The simplified acquisition procedures would make only 100 more stateside procurements eligible, from 2,000 to 2,100, the letter states.

“Agency officials also said that the increased authorities provided for under Section 833 are not worth the time and effort required to justify their use given the relatively modest increase in flexibility those authorities provide,” the letter states.

The new abilities take time and only DHS’ secretary, deputy secretary and undersecretary for management are qualified to approve their use, the letter states.

DHS officials reviewed the letter and had no additional comments, the letter states.

The letter was sent to the chairpersons and ranking members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, the House Government Reform, and the House Homeland Security committees.

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