Lawmaker calls for 'sound business' at Homeland Security

The Homeland Security Department must improve its accounting practices to spend less money on overhead and more on protecting America, a House Government Reform subcommittee chairman said at an oversight hearing on Wednesday.

"Improving our nation's security is essentially a test of the management and leadership abilities of the federal, state and local governments," said Todd Platts, R-Pa. "Given the magnitude and importance of the department's mission, sound business practices are critical to success and must be established at the outset."

A recent inspector general's audit found major problems with the department's accounting practices, including 18 "material weaknesses," or unreliable financial statements, where spending could not be tracked reliably. The worst offenders, the report said, were the agencies focused on emergency management, customs and immigration.

J. Richard Berman, Homeland Security's assistant inspector general, said immigration officials lack an automated accounting system and must stop work to count applications by hand two weeks before a statement is due. He blamed poor, unconnected databases for the problem.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster-assistance grant program, meanwhile, suffers from ineffective performance and financial oversight that have allowed grant recipients to misuse federal funds. Auditors questioned the use of $900 million from 1993 to 2000. And customs officials and the Transportation Security Administration also lack systems to monitor contractor performance and spending.

Bruce Carnes, the department's chief financial officer, said Homeland Security is working hard to integrate 83 financial management systems and is aggressively overhauling policies, including an attempt to consolidate financial statements on an accelerated schedule.

The final product, he said, will be "the business equivalent of a global positioning system" to provide immediate budget, accounting and procurement information to the White House Office of Management and Budget, Congress and others, and improve data quality and timeliness.

Linda Springer, controller of the Office of Federal Financial Management, said while Homeland Security's reforms are under way, changes will take several years to complete. The department's first challenge is to get a clean audit opinion on its financial statements, and that will require extensive cooperation from each of its 22 entities, she said.

She also said that is only the first step in a long process of streamlining the department's systems, including identifying information technology assets and deciding whether systems will include commercial products, be developed internally developed or involve a hybrid of the two.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.