Panel wants larger DHS acquisition workforce

The House Appropriations Committee has proposed directing 17 percent of $38.3 million for the Office of the Chief Procurement Officer at the Homeland Security Department to hire more employees and fund an intern program.

The committee wants the chief procurement officer to put $6.7 million toward hiring 26 additional employees who would focus on DHS' high-risk acquisitions. Members of the committee also want the chief officer to expand the centralized acquisition intern program, according to the fiscal 2009 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act (H.R. 6947) introduced Sept. 18. The House has not voted on the measure.


The emphasis comes because of committee members' frustration with how slowly DHS awards contracts.

“Over the years, the committee has added numerous staff to this office to try to speed up the procurement process, but discontent within component agencies remains,” said a committee report accompanying the spending bill.

“The committee is very dissatisfied with the amount of time it takes [Office of Procurement Operations] to review and approve contracts and studies for components that were formed when DHS was created,” according to the report. 


The problem with speed stems in part from the overlooked workforce, experts say. DHS officials have overlooked their acquisition workforce and have left it undeveloped, even five years after the department was formed, said Rep. Chris Carney (D-Pa.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee’s Management, Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee.

“There simply aren’t enough personnel in the DHS acquisitions shop,” he said at a Sept. 17 hearing.

Richard Gunderson, DHS' deputy chief procurement officer, told the subcommittee that DHS’ Acquisition Professional Career Program has placed 48 procurement interns throughout the department, and it plans for 150 more interns through fiscal 2010.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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