Reducing the Cost and Risk of Major Acquisitions at the Department of Homeland Security

by Jeffrey A. Drezner, Andrew R. Morral

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Widespread cost, schedule, and performance shortfalls point to ongoing and expensive problems in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) acquisition process. This paper is intended to help improve DHS acquisition management and oversight by providing a common problem definition, conceptual framework, and recommendations that DHS headquarters and component acquisition officials, as well as interested parties in Congress and related agencies, can use to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of DHS acquisition organizations. The authors recommend that DHS place greater emphasis on improved acquisition planning, including requiring rigorous planning and analysis as an inviolable condition of proceeding with each major acquisition. They also recommend that DHS senior officials take the following actions to improve the quality and use of acquisition planning: (1) Strengthen and rationalize DHS headquarters oversight to better enforce discipline in acquisition planning. (2) Better utilize objective analysis to improve planning, particularly analyses performed independently of the program or agency seeking the acquisition. (3) Broaden dissemination and improve transparency of analysis and planning to ensure that senior decisionmakers have access to a full range of appropriate information and perspectives.

This Perspective was commissioned by the RAND Homeland Security and Defense Center, a joint center of RAND Justice, Infrastructure, and Environment and the RAND National Security Research Division.

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