Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.), lead sponsor of a bill to reform acquisition at the Department of Homeland Security

Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.), lead sponsor of a bill to reform acquisition at the Department of Homeland Security Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

House Panel Advances DHS Acquisition Bills

Two bills seeking to improve oversight of the Department of Homeland Security’s acquisition programs were passed out of committee in a markup on Wednesday, along with a number of other measures.

The House Committee on Homeland Security advanced a slate of bills which aim to provide significant improvements and increased oversight to the Department of Homeland Security's acquisition programs, including new congressional reporting requirements.

The DHS Acquisition Reform Act and the Reducing Costs of DHS Acquisitions Act were referred out of committee after lawmakers reviewed a dozen bills on Thursday, focusing on homeland security matters ranging from the Transportation Security Administration's screening technologies, to legislation that would prohibit any DHS employees or contractors from downloading the social media app Tik Tok on government-issued devices. 

The Reducing Costs of DHS Acquisitions Act requires department program managers to report major acquisition programs which have gone over budget or not met their established performance requirements to DHS’ undersecretary for management and Congress. 

The bill “helps DHS in its efforts to improve management of its major acquisition programs by ensuring that programs managers use best practices,” Rep. Andrew Clyde (R–Ga.), who introduced the legislation, said at the Homeland Security Committee markup hearing on Wednesday.

He added: “At a time when the department is facing unprecedented threats on multiple fronts to our nation’s security, it is more critical than ever for DHS to efficiently and effectively purchase what it needs to defend our country from attack.”

Under the DHS Acquisition Reform Act, co-sponsored by Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.), the undersecretary for management is tasked with new responsibilities including leading the department's acquisition oversight body, the DHS Acquisition Review Board, in addition to evaluating the risks of failure to achieve costs and advising the secretary on all acquisition management activities. 

Rep. Jake LaTurner (R-Kan.), who introduced the bill, said in a statement that DHS has done "an average job at buying what it needs" but added that the agency "could be a much better steward of taxpayer money."

"DHS continues to face challenges in its acquisition programs, such as the inconsistency of organizational and oversight structures and variability in the application of department policies," he said. "Given these challenges, and the significant level of DHS investment in these programs, it is important to ensure that the proper oversight and organizational structures are in place for DHS to acquire goods and services as efficiently—and effectively—as possible.”

The Government Accountability Office has called on DHS to improve its acquisition program management for years, noting in a 2021 report that data the agency was disclosing to Congress lacked the necessary context required to conduct proper oversight.

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