DHS still falling short in spending plan for border technology, GAO says

Latest plan fully satisfies only 3 out of 10 conditions set by Congress

Despite five years of trying, the Homeland Security Department continues to come up short in justifying its investments in southern border technologies, according to a new congressional report.

This year is no exception, with the latest DHS expenditure plan for Border Security Fencing, Infrastructure & Technology satisfying only three out of 10 legislative conditions in full, states the Nov. 17 report from the Government Accountability Office.

Five conditions were partially met and two were not met, said the congressional watchdog agency.


Related story:

New border technology strategy has gaps: GAO


Many of the conditions involve documentation. For example, the unmet conditions were requirements for DHS senior officials to write certifications of the plan's alignment with information technology and human capital objectives. Another condition, partially met, was for DHS to provide a list of all previous inspector general and GAO unresolved recommendations.

“Over five consecutive years, DHS has consistently not included all required elements in the plans leading to partially satisfied or not satisfied legislative conditions each year,” Richard Stana, GAO’s director of homeland security and justice issues, wrote in the report, which was requested by Congress in the 2011 appropriations law for the department.

The department should provide Congress with additional information to enhance the existing expenditure plan and should provide explanations for any unfulfilled legislative conditions, Stana wrote. DHS officials agreed with the recommendation.

The department has continued to have difficulties in deploying cost-effective technology at the border. Secretary Janet Napolitano canceled the SBInet electronic surveillance system a year ago after spending $1 billion to build out 53 miles.

To date, Congress has appropriated $4.7 billion from fiscal 2007 to fiscal 2011 for border technologies, including SBInet and physical fencing, the GAO said in its latest report.

Earlier this month, the GAO criticized Customs and Border Protection for alleged gaps in planning for additional technologies to be deployed in Arizona in the current fiscal year.

About the Author

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

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