With over 120,000 front line agents, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is managing hundreds of thousands of individual assets. These resources are needed by agents to accomplish their daily mission of securing our Nation. But poor resource management is plaguing the department and putting that mission at risk. A recent report released by the DHS Office of Inspector General found that the department realized mid-March that it needed to modernize its land mobile radio networks and as a result awarded contractors $3 billion in a strategic sourcing contract to do so. However, the agency's investigation claims that poor procurement and inventory management practices may cancel out the entire savings the department originally calculated. Resource accountability was also called out as a critical issue in the report.
Resource management is essential for DHS readiness
Knowing where resources are, who has them and their current condition is essential information for operational leaders to know. Coupled with information about active personnel, a department can model its operational capabilities. Without this oversight, it is difficult to make good investment decisions because it is impossible to know if there are enough or too few resources to go around. An recent example are DHS' tactical radios.
The Department operates and maintains 20 land mobile radio networks that serve more than 120,000 frontline agents and officers. According to the report, these agents rely on their radio systems as a primary form of communications while out in the field and, as a result, radios are crucial pieces of equipment for agents to accomplish their mission safely.
"DHS is unable to make sound investment decisions for radio equipment and supporting infrastructure because the Department is not effectively managing its radio communication program. DHS does not have reliable Department-wide inventory data or an effective governance structure to guide investment decision-making. As a result, DHS risks wasting taxpayer funds on equipment purchases and radio system investments that are not needed, sustainable, supportable, or affordable."
The report went on to state that, "two DHS Components we visited stored more than 8,000 radio equipment items valued at $28 million for a year or longer at their maintenance and warehouse facilities, while some programs faced critical equipment shortages. A portfolio management approach is key to making informed decisions about the best way to allocate available equipment to ensure the right equipment is at the right locations and in the quantities needed to conduct mission operations."
Importance of chain-of-custody – tracking inventory to personnel records
Even proficient and trained teams can fail without effective resource tracking. As a result, tracking inventory by chain-of-custody is crucial for the safety of officers and the public. Tracking mission-critical, high value or sensitive equipment as it makes its way from the procurement activity of the agency or department to each individual agent reduces waste, increases oversight and minimizes liability. As departments and individual teams add new equipment, including communications gear, vehicles, medical kits and more, any transfer of custody should be recorded. For example, if a firearm requires repair, custody will transfer to the armory until it is returned to the agent to whom the weapon is assigned. In this way, a responsible party for each resource is identified through that asset's lifecycle.
Inventory tracking should be closely linked to personnel skills and certifications data to ensure individuals who are being issued specific resources have the necessary training to use the equipment issued. In this way, only individuals will be issued resources they are authorized to use. For example, a firearm would only be issued to an individual agent who has successfully completed firearms training and has an active firearm qualification on record. A methodical approach to documenting chain-of-custody and ensuring only authorized individuals are issued sensitive gear can significantly reduce a Department's liability.
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