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Napolitano Faces Contracting Challenges at DHS

By Ed O'Keefe

Gov. Janet Napolitano (D-Ariz.) is President-elect Barack Obama's choice to serve as secretary of homeland security. Should she be nominated and confirmed, she faces challenges well beyond border security, airport security and collective bargaining rights for TSA employees. A new report by the General Accountability Office issued yesterday demonstrates that the department still lacks the proper planning and staff to handle its roughly $12 billion worth of government contracts.

Homeland Security "has not developed a comprehensive strategic acquisition workforce plan" and "lacks documented performance goals and implementation steps" for its current contract acquisitions. "Without developing this foundation, DHS will not be in a position to effectively monitor and evaluate implementation of these initiatives," the report reads.

This all basically means that DHS has not done enough to set contracting standards and does not have enough members for its contract acquisition workforce, which is responsible for identifying, buying and overseeing contracts for the department. Such employees manage contracts including the Coast Guard’s Integrated Deepwater System, or large computer systems or other programs. The GAO acknowledges that the department has made progress in recruiting, hiring and training an acquisition workforce. It established an internship program earlier this year, for example, that led to the hiring of 49 contract specialists in September.

For its part, DHS generally agrees with the GAO's recommendations.

"As with other federal agencies, DHS faces challenges in building and sustaining a capable acquisition workforce, and, as the youngest and in many ways most visible Department, DHS faces even steeper challenges in this regard," the department's chief procurement officer Thomas W. Essig wrote in a letter to GAO.

"Federal contracting has grown exponentially in the last five years. While contributing to that growth, this Department has failed to put resources into staffing and planning-thereby paving the way for waste," said Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. "During the Committee's most recent acquisition process hearing, we revealed that tens of millions of taxpayer dollars had been wasted on major acquisitions."

"We look forward to working with the new administration to increase the number of federal acquisition personnel and the quality of the training they receive," Thompson added.

No pressure, governor, no pressure.

By Ed O'Keefe  | November 20, 2008; 9:30 AM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments  
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I hope Mr. Essig isn't saddled with the Standard Procurement System (SPS), one of the dumbest and most expensive programs I was ever involved with as a Contract Specialist and Contracting Officer for 31 years in the Dept. of the Navy.

Posted by: st50taw | November 20, 2008 11:25 AM | Report abuse

They have a problem with illegals in AZ with this governer now they want her to be DHS, that must be some good kool aid.

Posted by: veracity68 | November 20, 2008 1:15 PM | Report abuse

I'm bummed that Janet might be leaving Arizona. First good governor we've had in a long time. I was hoping she'd challenge McCain for the Senate next go-round. She will be a good fit for Barack, given her ability to work across the aisle with a majority conservative, Republican citizenry here.

As far as veracity68's snarkiness about "illegals in AZ"-- um, where do you expect illegals to try to cross the border? Iowa? Yes, we have problems here, and Janet knows from bitter experience the cost of that-- in human suffering, environmental damage, and economic impact. I'd rather have someone who knows that going in than some blissed-out neocon who thinks that border security is an easy or simple fix.

Posted by: raisinmountaineer | November 20, 2008 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Obama must not make himself guilty of appointing cronies helpers as a reward.

This Napolitano lady is paranoid about any kind of secuity, let alone national security, and is sure to make things worse, should Obama proceed with her.

Let's hope Obama really looks for the good of the nation, not for the good of politics.

Else, Jeremiah Wright will be proven right.

Posted by: ElMugroso | November 20, 2008 2:28 PM | Report abuse

The real Truth about AZ Gov Janet Napolitano Is Bonehead Barack Hussein Obama
could have spent all four years of his one
and only term Presidency and NEVER Found
A More Total Incompetent,Complete Do Nothing,Bigger More Worthless Loser Then
Janet Napolitano The Queen Of Illegal Alien
Invasion of the USA since Napolitano tried
to block every effort by our own Arizona
State Legislature to Help Control the Flood
of Illegal Aliens into Arizona and to Hold
Any Illegal Alien Employer Accountable and
Make Them Subject to Severe Sanctions for
Hiring Illegal Aliens and Napolitano record
as U S Attorney for Arizona is even more
dismal and total do nothingism. Please call
or fax or email your own two US Senators
and Congress Person to Oppose Janet Napolitano For Sec of Homeland Security
as we cannot afford Napolitano in charge.

Posted by: sherrykay2008 | November 20, 2008 6:13 PM | Report abuse

I could not disagree more with SherryKay 2008's post. Janet Napolitano is one of the most intelligent, thoughtful, problem-solvers currently holding major political office. I cannot imagine what she thinks the fate of AZ would have been for the last 6 years had there been a different governor in office. Janet is dealing with some of THE toughest issues faced by any state. She is a tireless worker, unafraid of tackling the tough issues and a true consensus builder -- widely approved of by her constituency. And for all of that, at the root of all of it is a true understanding that the law actually affects the daily lives of REAL people and REAL families. She's had the courage to go after businesses that hire illegals...and she's also had the courage to veto laws that may have been well-intentioned, but went too far and would have had very bad consequences. Obama is doing the country a great favor by choosing Janet -- but it's clearly Arizona's loss. They're about to find out how lucky they've been.

Posted by: SFinSF | November 23, 2008 4:22 AM | Report abuse

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