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DHS tech gets Post'ed

Those here in the DC area likely know, but the Homeland Security Department came under the Washington Post's spotlight over the last two days. Here is how Slate.com's Today's Papers synopsised today's story:
The Washington Post leads with the second of two articles in its special report on Homeland Security contracts—this one on how the US-VISIT program to build a virtual, biometric border-control regime is plagued with outdated technology and a blurry, open-ended relationship between the government and its primary contractor, Accenture. "There's no question we could end up spending billions of dollars and end up with nothing," said the head of an immigration nonprofit. "It creates an illusion of security that doesn't exist."

To be honest, I have not had the chance to read the full story -- I will tonight. That being said, I'm not sure how these two graphs sync with one another.
Documents and interviews with people familiar with the program, called US-VISIT, show that government officials are betting on speculative technology while neglecting basic procedures to ensure that taxpayers get full value from government contractors.

And then, just two graphs later, this:
Although the government has already spent or budgeted about $1 billion for the US-VISIT program, the new system is being built on top of aging computer databases and software that government scientists concluded two years ago are out of date, poorly coordinated and ineffective.

I have to read the full story, but...
It seems that this is a tad bit of 'damned if you do, damned if you don't.' Nobody doubts that US-VISIT is a major undertaking and FCW has written literally hundreds of stories on the program. In fact, in January 2004, we named it one of our must-watch programs on our FCW Watch List.
But let me read the story...

And... yesterday's story... this from Slate.com's Today's Papers:

The WP fronts the first of a two-part investigation into waste in the contracting process at the Department of Homeland Security. After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the newly created agency received a lot of money, tight deadlines, and a small contracting staff, which resulted in unnecessary spending, ineffective programs, and often huge profits for contractors. For example, the contract for new airport screeners increased from $104 million to $741 million in less than a year, and the screenings have not improved significantly since right after the attacks on Washington and New York. Last year, the Government Accountability Office issued a confidential report that described the Homeland Security Department as having a "high risk" of failure.


One other read: Former cyber-czar Richard Clarke has a regular column in the NYT Magazine. This wee, he offers his advice for the new intel czar John Negroponte.
Building a Better Spy [NYT, 5.22.2005, registration required]
Advice for John Negroponte: Go for broke. Face down Rumsfeld. Your country needs you.

Posted by Christopher Dorobek on May 23, 2005 at 12:14 PM


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