Why DHS has no idea how much it spends on training
- By Zach Noble
- Jan 28, 2016
How much are the agencies that make up the Department Homeland Security spending on training each year?
It's less than clear, according to a Jan. 20 report from DHS' inspector general, which laid out severe problems with governance, oversight and data systems gone awry.
"When we requested DHS training costs from the DHS Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OFCO), it could not readily provide the data," the report noted. "The OCFO did not have access to components' financial systems."
All told in fiscal year 2014, DHS reported less than 1 percent of the total appropriated training funds to the Office of Personnel Management, the IG found.
The problem persists across DHS and within component agencies.
Data are not accessible to the feds ostensibly charged with monitoring them, the IG found. Instead, federal executives often rely on contractors to feed them data, and that data can be messed up in ways the feds don't even realize.
In the case of the Secret Service, the agency thought its contractor had been filing the required monthly training expense reports with OPM, but OPM did not have any of those reports past February 2014.
"According to DHS' contractor, there have been problems with USSS data files; however, neither DHS nor USSS were aware of this issue prior to our audit," the DHS IG determined.
Another telling example: In August 2014, the Transportation Security Administration reported to OPM that it had spent nothing on training, but the IG audit turned up monthly expenses of more than $20 million. TSA repeated the gargantuan error in January 2015, reporting no spending to OPM but then later telling the IG's office it had spent some $23 million that month.
An enterprise-wide management system, years delayed, may help somewhat. The Performance and Learning Management System (PALMS) was initially slated for a December 2013 launch, but DHS told the IG that after multiple delays, the system won't be fully operational until 2017.
And even when systems are in order, governance could be another sticking point for DHS, the IG noted, as lines of responsibility for training data reporting and verification are often unclear in DHS components.
In response to the report, DHS agreed with the IG's findings and promised three fixes this year: a department-wide study of training programs by the end of February, a final directive clearing up governance structures by the end of June and a review of accounting codes by the end of October.
Zach Noble is a staff writer covering digital citizen services, workforce issues and a range of civilian federal agencies.
Before joining FCW in 2015, Noble served as assistant editor at the viral news site TheBlaze, where he wrote a mix of business, political and breaking news stories and managed weekend news coverage. He has also written for online and print publications including The Washington Free Beacon, The Santa Barbara News-Press, The Federalist and Washington Technology.
Noble is a graduate of Saint Vincent College, where he studied English, economics and mathematics.
Click here for previous articles by Noble, or connect with him on Twitter: @thezachnoble.