TSA at odds with DHS IG over audit

DHS used contract to buy services for US-Visit and other projects

SCALED BACK: Former TSA CIO Pat Schambach said the agency was led to expect the project would exceed a $1 billion ceiling.

The Homeland Security Department inspector general's office recently released a report critical of the Transportation Security Administration and Unisys Corp. for their execution of a $1 billion IT services contract to get TSA off the ground.

But the IG report acknowledges only in passing that the Information Technology Managed Services contract was conceived as a $3 billion to $5 billion program. And it holds TSA and Unisys responsible for $834 million in costs incurred to date, while mentioning only in a footnote that DHS itself spent some of that money on department programs not included in the scope of the project.

The report also seems to overlook other fundamental issues that played a role in the contract's shortcomings.

For instance, the IG criticized TSA and Unisys for having burned through too much of the $1 billion too fast: '83 percent of the contract ceiling has been expended in less than half of the allotted time.' But the money spent would be about 28 percent of the lower end of the project's original estimate.

Similarly, the IG report notes that TSA claimed the approved contract ceiling reflected 'specific requirements but could not document which specific requirements.'

But former TSA CIO Pat Schambach said last year in an article in the Washington Post that expectations for the program were not adjusted to meet the lower ceiling.
Instead, there was anticipation that the Transportation Department would provide more money when the ceiling was reached.

'All I got from the DOT was, 'When you hit $1 billion, come back to us,' ' he told the Post in October 2005.

When TSA was created as a unit of DOT, DHS did not yet exist. The billion-dollar ceiling for ITMS 'was simply a guess to get the project started,' Schambach said, according to a Washington Post article. The IG's report found that '[s]everal TSA officials said that they never expected to complete all of the contract objectives within the original contract ceiling and originally estimated that the contract could cost ... $3 to 5 billion.'

Schambach refused to offer any further comment on ITMS and referred GCN to his previous remarks.

In all, the IG concluded that 'TSA spent most of the contract ceiling without receiving many of the contract deliverables critical to airport security and communications.'

The report criticized TSA and Unisys for numerous shortcomings in executing the contract, almost all of which can be summed up in one failure: TSA did not receive all the deliverables identified in the contract when it was awarded.

Unisys declined to comment.

Things got only more confusing when TSA was relocated to the brand-new DHS, created in early 2003. The IG's report mentioned in a footnote that some money was used by DHS itself.

'DHS was established months after award, and the contract provided the same start-up mission support for the department as it did for TSA,' said TSA spokesman Darrin Kayser in a written response. 'Also, [U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator System] and other programs developed by DHS were performed under the contract.'

Kayser added that the total amount DHS spent on its own IT programs off of the ITMS contract was $137 million, and it is still using the transition contract that TSA and Unisys signed in January.

An IG spokeswoman said the audit was based on funds obligated to the project: 'The contract ceiling of $1 billion represented the total funding obligated on the effort. The estimate of $3 to $5 billion was not a monetary committment on the part of DHS.'

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