Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., introduced the bill.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., introduced the bill. Carolyn Kaster/AP

Senator Proposes Codifying DHS Cost Control Panel

Bill would enshrine agency’s Joint Requirements Council in statute.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., introduced a bill Wednesday that would codify in statute a body that seeks to save money by coordinating acquisition and contracts between subcomponent agencies within the Homeland Security Department.

The DHS Joint Requirements Council Act (S. 2359) would ensure that the department’s Joint Requirements Council, which belatedly got off the ground in 2014, would be a permanent fixture. The body allows the 22 agencies within DHS to work together on purchases and service contracts, and reduce wasteful spending.

The council was established administratively in 2003, but went unused until then-Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson reconstituted it in 2014. In 2016, the Government Accountability Office touted the body as having a “generally sound” approach to reduce duplicative spending and develop long-term investment priorities.

“The re-establishment of the JRC after many years without such an active body is a positive demonstration of senior-level commitment to improving the DHS-wide capabilities and requirements processes,” GAO wrote. “The JRC has the potential to help DHS reduce duplication and make cost-effective investments across its portfolio, although specific outcomes will not materialize in terms of budget decisions in the short term.”

In a statement, McCaskill said that in 2013, prior to the council’s return to prominence, Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Coast Guard both needed to upgrade their helicopter fleets, but they did not coordinate. She said that if the Joint Requirements Council had been in place at the time, it could have saved taxpayers about $126 million.

“When agencies work together before making big purchases, they can avoid wasteful spending and duplication,” McCaskill said. “My commonsense bill enshrines this important program into law, which will help maximize the department’s spending on what’s most needed for national security.

DHS spent more than $33 billion on contracts, supplies and asset acquisition in fiscal 2017.

According to the legislation, the council would be composed of a variety of top officials from DHS’ component agencies, with its chairperson chosen by the department secretary. The bill also said that DHS’ Future Years Homeland Security Program—a five-year spending projection required with the submission of DHS’ annual budget request—must incorporate recommendations from the Joint Requirements Council.