DHS procurement shortages hinder performance contracts

The Homeland Security Department lacks the experienced procurement employees needed to properly handle performance-based contracts, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee has said.

Gaps in the workforce caused significant problems with those contracts, he also said.

In a hearing held May 8, Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said DHS needed active involvement between procurement staff members and program managers along with effective oversight of contractors.

Thompson said some of those problems stem from DHS' lack of contracting employees. He said that, as of February, DHS employs 60 percent of the procurement staff members the agency needs to manage its contracts.

“When we are spending the taxpayer’s money, complacency about the weaknesses in DHS’ procurement shop is not acceptable,” Thompson said.

Several DHS performance-based contracts created cost overruns and low-quality products, he said, citing the Coast Guard’s Deepwater program. The Guard, a component of DHS, spent $1 billion on the fleet modernization program, but was left with substandard vessels, Thompson said.

DHS Chief Procurement Officer Thomas Essiq testified he is pushing to fill the gaps in his procurement workforce.

“We are intensifying our human capital planning efforts to minimize skill and competency gaps as well as minimize our critical vacancies and reliance on contractors,” Essiq said.

Essiq said his office also is updating its acquisition training program and getting acquisition professionals to mentor less-experienced contracting employees on the workings of performance-based acquisitions.

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