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Homeland Security Can't Keep Track of All Its Warehouses

Inspector general says more-accurate inventories could save money.

The Homeland Security Department’s network of warehouses that store seized property and disaster relief supplies is not accurately inventoried and may eat up more square footage than necessary, a watchdog found.

Though the department has taken steps to assess its warehousing, the spotty inventories mean “DHS cannot manage warehouses or demonstrate compliance with requirements to limit the size of real property inventories and reduce costs,” the department’s inspector general said in a report dated late last month.

Some Homeland Security components “misclassify many of their warehouses. We found buildings that should not have been on the department’s warehouse inventory,” auditors said. “Conversely, we found buildings that should have been classified as warehouses, but were not.”

Maintaining large warehouses under capacity also flies in the face of the Obama administration’s four-year-old effort to “freeze the federal footprint” of real property assets, which the Office of Management and Budget recently tightened with the goal of reducing that footprint to save even more money, the IG noted.

DHS owns or leases 1,628 warehouses consisting of nearly 6.3 million square feet, “about the size of 110 football fields,” the report said. They range from the very small 45-square-foot shed used by the Coast Guard to a 500,000-square-foot Federal Emergency Management Agency warehouse. Auditors visited 210 warehouses from June 2014 to March 2015, and found that 160, or 24 percent, were misclassified.

“Even though most warehouses we visited were well organized and appeared to support the components’ missions, we identified three warehouses that Customs and Border Protection could potentially consolidate or close and put $1 million per year to better use,” the report said.

The IG recommended that the DHS Chief Readiness Support Officer implement policies and procedures for consistently reviewing, classifying, justifying, and accounting for warehouses; and identifying opportunities to reduce the real property footprint. The watchdog also recommended taking steps to ensure greater accuracy. And the IG proposed terminating a $74,000 annual lease for a facility in Northern California and repurposing funds to dispose of excess equipment and consolidate furniture and computer equipment warehouses in Northern Virginia.

DHS officials agreed.

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