Reform is on the Agenda at Department of Homeland Security

March 10, 2009
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano ordered an Efficiency Review across the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) last month – an effort that the Obama administration says will make the department work better by promoting efficiency, reducing duplication and improving customer service in DHS functions.

She offers these examples of how even smaller efforts at DHS can find significant efficiencies:

Improving Customer Service – A radio frequency identification system that went live last week at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in California expedites the crossing of low-risk, pre-screened individuals, resulting in greater convenience for the public and more efficient time allocation for Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Building Design – CBP is working with the General Services Administration (GSA) on standardizing building designs for ports of entry, which will result in costs savings, as well as operational and maintenance efficiencies.

Technology – DHS Science & Technology partnered with Secret Service, industry and academia to digitize over 9,000 ink samples improving investigation of criminal and terrorist activities and reducing matching times from days to minutes.

DHS is a young department with many opportunities for greater efficiency, according to Napolitano. The hope is that the Efficiency Review will look at improving efficiency on a number of fronts within the department, such as:

Use of contractors – The use of contractors often is not as efficient as the use of employees, and contractors are overused at DHS. There was a greater need for contractors while DHS was being established, but the department will make an effort to transfer administrative and program management functions to employees.

Acquisition work force – The department will work to improve the procurement process by building a professional acquisition workforce with expertise, thus reducing reliance on contractors for program management.

Troubleshooting – DHS has established an in-house Operational Test and Evaluation (OTE) capability that will address operational problems and issues with user-friendliness, identifying and correcting them before a system is implemented, as opposed to addressing issues after the fact.

Independent cost estimation – DHS also is starting (for the first time) to do independent cost estimations for major acquisitions. This will help prevent delays and cost overruns by making sure costs are well vetted and trade-offs are known early in a project, when schedules still can be set and adjustments can be made.
About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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