DHS scored on systems, finances

DHS scored on systems, finances

Members of the House Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Homeland Security today criticized the Homeland Security Department for lacking integrated computer systems and efficient financial management.

Outgoing deputy secretary James Loy fielded pointed questions about how the department had ignored lawmakers' requests for reports and explanations of how it would field technology.

Committee Chairman Harold Rogers said it is 'unacceptable that the department has not taken any significant steps toward integrating the multitude of IT systems that existed within legacy DHS agencies.' Loy, a retired Coast Guard admiral, told the Kentucky Republican that DHS is working to consolidate its human resources systems and to coordinate financial systems it inherited from its component agencies.

Loy added in his written testimony that DHS has reduced its number of accounting providers from 18 to eight and pared its bank card programs from 27 to three. The department has collapsed acquisition support for the 22 agencies it inherited and 35 other offices it created into eight major procurement operations, he added.

'DHS has signed several enterprise license agreements [with software vendors such as Microsoft Corp. and OracleCorp.] that will be expected to save roughly $35 million in [fiscal 2005] and roughly $130 million over the next five years,' according to Loy's written testimony.

But Rogers honed in on the financial chaos within the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency of the Border and Transportation Security Directorate, noting that Congress approved a $300 million reprogramming last year to rescue ICE from its financial woes. He noted that ICE 'has had a hiring freeze in place for more than a year because of funding shortfalls that were caused by merging legacy [Immigration and Naturalization Service] with portions of legacy Customs.'

Loy conceded that ICE's problems flowed partly from poor management within its financial offices, and suggested that DHS soon would ask for a $280 reprogramming for 2005 and further reforms in the 2006 budget. 'Moving money around does not solve the structural problems of management,' Rogers responded.

Both Rogers and Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard criticized the department's failure to integrate the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System with the IDENT system that the department inherited from INS. The California Democrat cited a report the Justice Department Inspector General issued late last year on IDENT/IAFIS integration which stated that Justice and DHS had not forged a memorandum of understanding on how to proceed with the project.

'Can you give us insights on how to get these two top-level agencies to work this out?' Roybal-Allard asked. Loy responded that Justice and DHS recently had concluded an agreement on the topic, and he pledged to provide it to the committee.

As she left the hearing room, Roybal-Allard said, 'We are going to get a copy of that and look at it. I think the inspector general has a lot of credibility. I am not satisfied' with the departments' actions on IDENT and IAFIS integration, she added. 'If you look at the IG report, it is about 99 percent of the people who cross the border who are not being checked with IAFIS,' she said.

Amid the tart questioning from committee members, Rep. John Sweeney (R-N.Y.) said, 'I have a sense that this appropriations bill is going to be a rough ride.'

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