Homeland Security plans shake-up of contract management

The Homeland Security Department intends to act on audit recommendations that it reorganize the contracting shops that formerly were part of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

A General Accounting Office report released today, Contract Management: INS Contracting Weaknesses Need Attention from the Department of Homeland Security, concluded that left as is, the organizations lack the expertise to handle the complex systems buys necessary to improve immigration services.

GAO said INS needs to give procurement officers higher rank so they can make strategic decisions.

In written comments, Homeland Security told GAO it agreed with the recommendations and will adopt them. The changes will be part of broader efforts to streamline acquisition organizations within the department.

"DHS is also in the process of hiring a director of acquisition work force to oversee hiring, training and retention of procurement professionals," according to the Homeland Security response.

GAO cited problems with early contracts for the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indication Technology system. Before INS became part of Homeland Security, it issued some contracts for the border entry-exit system without sufficient planning, which limited competition, the report said.

The auditors also criticized systems used to track of procurements, including the INS' Intelligent Procurement System as well as more informal tools such as spreadsheet applications and standalone databases. "The data collected through these means are not comprehensive or reliable," GAO said. "Contract administration information, such as contract closeout status, is often missing and contract modifications are often not up-to-date."

INS functions have been parceled out to the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services?within Homeland Security's Border and Transportation Security Directorate.

Wilson P. Dizard III writes for Government Computer News

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