GAO: DHS needs data on acquisition authority

Related Links

GAO report

The Homeland Security Department’s special acquisition authority appears to be working, but the department needs better data to assess that success, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

Congress granted the special authority — also known as other transaction authority — to the department when it was created in 2002. That authority expires this month.

It enables the department’s Science and Technology Directorate to procure state-of-the-art technology from contractors that are new to government work and offer advanced technologies needed for homeland security.

GAO auditors found that 44 of the 53 agreements that involved the special authority used nontraditional contractors, and about half of those companies were small businesses.

The directorate’s “program managers told us that other transaction authority facilitated the involvement of nontraditional contractors who may have the most innovative solutions to homeland security needs,” the Sept. 23 report states.

However, although the department has adopted practices to manage the transactions, it lacks the necessary information to systematically assess whether it is obtaining the full benefits of the authority, GAO officials said.

For example, DHS does not track the amount of funds paid to nontraditional contractors or the nature of the work they performed, and the department’s contractor database does not contain information on nontraditional contractors, the GAO report states.

GAO recommended that department officials collect relevant data on agreements created under the other transaction authority and report their findings to Congress. DHS officials agreed with the advice.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

Featured

  • Congress
    Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) at the Hack the Capitol conference Sept. 20, 2018

    Jim Langevin's view from the Hill

    As chairman of of the Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committe and a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rhode Island Democrat Jim Langevin is one of the most influential voices on cybersecurity in Congress.

  • Comment
    Pilot Class. The author and Barbie Flowers are first row third and second from right, respectively.

    How VA is disrupting tech delivery

    A former Digital Service specialist at the Department of Veterans Affairs explains efforts to transition government from a legacy "project" approach to a more user-centered "product" method.

  • Cloud
    cloud migration

    DHS cloud push comes with complications

    A pressing data center closure schedule and an ensuing scramble to move applications means that some Homeland Security components might need more than one hop to get to the cloud.

Stay Connected

FCW INSIDER

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.