South Carolina’s 3rd District Congress Jeff Duncan continues his scrutiny of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, holding another hearing Thursday to question the agency’s recent computer system troubles. Read more in article from the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Since February of last year, Duncan has held 11 hearings requiring the department to explain its spending and operations. Thursday’s panel addressed, “Examining challenges and wasted taxpayer dollars in modernizing border security IT systems.” Watch archived hearing.
At issue now is a recent report from the federal Government Accountability Office that computer upgrades for border screening have been troubled and will likely miss a September 2015 launch deadline. The report stated, “it is unclear when it will be delivered and at what cost.”
Duncan said the almost $60 million spent each year to simply keep the system going is a waste of taxpayer money.
“In the private sector, there are not many firms, if any, that could invest that kind of money for very little result and I don’t know of any private sector firms that would,” Duncan told Charles Armstrong, Assistant Commissioner of DHS’s Office of Information and Technology. Armstrong said some of the program management and oversight were put in place too late.
Yet, Armstrong called the upgrade an “iterative” process, with live testing and small-scale rollouts of the technology along the way, instead of one large launch.
“I feel like we’re on track,” he said.
Customs and Border Protection has spent $250 million since 2008 on the security upgrade. In its response to the GAO report, the agency said it had made progress, noting it has deployed the upgrades at ports and airports.
“And we got a long ways to go,” Duncan admonished at Thursday’s hearing. “That’s a heck of a lot of taxpayer dollars that were spent. I need to stop and let my blood pressure calm down a little bit.”
Duncan has listed his overall problems with DHS spending in a recent editorial published in The Hill.