IG: SBInet has too many contractors
SBInet's heavy reliance on contractors increases the risk of losing control of the program
- By Matthew Weigelt
- Jul 10, 2009
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency hasn’t kept
contractors far enough away from inherently governmental work on its
border protection program because the agency relies too heavily on
them, according to a new report.
Contractors comprise more than 50 percent of the workforce on
the agency’s Secure Border Initiative, mainly because of the Homeland
Security Department’s aggressive program schedule and shortages of
government program managers and acquisition specialists, the
department’s inspector general said in a report released July 9.
“As a result, contractors are performing functions that should be
performed by government workers,” the IG wrote. The CBP also failed to
clearly define the roles that were appropriate for contractors and
those that government employees must perform.
In response to the IG, CBP officials said no support services contractor performed any inherently governmental function.
Despite the abundance of contractors, the IG said the agency doesn’t
have enough contracting officer’s technical representatives (COTRs).
They have first-hand oversight of contractors' work and update the
contracting officers on progress and any problems.
The CBP’s heavy reliance on contractors increases the risk of losing
control of the SBInet program's management, the IG said. SBInet is a
comprehensive, departmentwide program to secure the U.S. borders. It's
an electronic surveillance system comprised of cameras,
radars, ground sensors and communications equipment that transmit information to border patrol agents at operations centers.
The IG noted steps the CBP has taken to hire federal employees, but
it specifically recommends hiring more COTRs to oversee contractors’
work. It also recommends allowing only government employees to conduct
inherently governmental functions.
CBP officials said the agency has the SBInet acquisition and program
offices working together on contractor oversight. It has also held
training workshops for COTRs.
Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.