DHS IG: S&T Directorate needs better contract oversight

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The Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate is moving to implement reforms to its contracting process after an inspector general report said it needs to get a better handle on contract management.

S&T told the IG that it will have strengthened contracting documentation processes in place by summer.

The changes were noted in a Feb. 27 IG report that concluded S&T may have wasted millions on a biodetection technology contract that it ultimately terminated. The $23 million contract in 2010 was with NVS Technologies for a Multi-Application Multiplex Technology Platform, and was initially valued at $18 million. The IG's audit noted that S&T had requested modifications that raised the ceiling to $30 million. The contract was terminated in February 2014, after it reached $23 million.

The report said although S&T had "properly awarded the contract with NVS, it did not properly manage the contract."

"The termination occurred in part because S&T did not have adequate standards for documenting its review and oversight of contracts by the program office," said the IG.

"If program performance is not adequately documented," IG John Roth wrote in a Feb. 27 letter to S&T Undersecretary Reginald Brothers accompanying the audit results, S&T may also have difficulty making well-informed decisions on all its contracts." Roth noted that in fiscal 2013, S&T administered about 370 contracts valued at $338 million.

DHS concurred with several IG recommendations.

S&T told the IG it will update its Program Management Guide as part of its new Apex programs and oversight model by Sept. 30. Under S&T's Apex program, managers focus on big-picture, new technology development while they address individual requirements and advance technology for all of S&T in their fields, such as biothreats and detection.

S&T also said its Finance and Budget Division will establish a written policy for leadership notification of intent to terminate a contract, with supporting documentation. It expects to have the policy in place by the end of July. S&T also told the IG that the division is implementing a tool that will capture all of the established metrics and performance for its projects, to provide a more transparent monitoring process. The S&T directorate said the tool will be in place by the end of September.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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