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United States Government Accountability Office: 

Testimony before the Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation, 
Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, House of Representatives: 

For Release on Delivery: 
Expected at 10:00 a.m. EDT:
Tuesday, March 15, 2011: 

Homeland Security: 

Improvements in Managing Research and Development Could Help Reduce 
Inefficiencies and Costs: 

Statement of David C. Maurer, Director:
Homeland Security and Justice Issues: 


Chairman Quayle, Ranking Member Wu, and Members of the Subcommittee: 

I am pleased to be here today to discuss our past work examining the 
management of research and development (R&D) at the Department of 
Homeland Security (DHS). DHS acquisition programs represent hundreds 
of billions of dollars in life-cycle costs and support a wide range of 
missions and investments including Coast Guard ships and aircraft, 
border surveillance and screening equipment, nuclear detection 
equipment, and technologies used to screen airline passengers and 
baggage for explosives. Since its creation in 2003, DHS has spent 
billions of dollars on R&D on technologies and other countermeasures 
to address various threats and to conduct its missions. Within DHS, 
the Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) conducts overall R&D 
efforts to improve homeland security. Among other things, S&T works 
with DHS components to provide assistance in researching and 
developing technologies to meet their specific missions, while the 
components themselves are responsible for developing, testing, and 
acquiring these technologies. For example, DHS's Domestic Nuclear 
Detection Office (DNDO) is charged with developing, acquiring, and 
deploying equipment to detect nuclear and radiological materials, 
supporting the efforts of DHS and other federal agencies. The 
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is responsible for 
securing the nation's transportation systems and, with S&T, 
researching, developing, and deploying technologies to, for example, 
screen airline passengers and their baggage. Furthermore, the Coast 
Guard utilizes a variety of assets such as small boats, ships, 
helicopters, and other aircraft to perform its missions and regularly 
develops and procures new assets to replace its aging fleet. In recent 
years, DHS has experienced challenges in managing its multibillion 
dollar R&D and acquisition efforts, including instances where 
technologies were implemented before testing and evaluation was 
complete. We have also identified problems with its testing and cost-
benefit analyses efforts in this area. 

My testimony today is based on reports and testimonies we issued from 
May 2009 through March 2011, including a report we issued earlier this 
month regarding opportunities to reduce potential duplication in 
government programs, save tax dollars, and enhance revenue. My 
testimony today is based on the section from that report related to 
the management of R&D within DHS. [Footnote 1] Specifically, this 
testimony discusses inefficiencies in homeland security R&D and 
potential for cost savings in this area. 

For our past work, we reviewed program schedules, planning documents, 
testing reports, and other acquisition documentation. For some of the 
programs we discuss in this testimony, we conducted site visits to a 
range of facilities, such as national laboratories, airports, and 
other locations to observe research, development, and testing efforts. 
We also conducted interviews with DHS component program managers and 
S&T officials to discuss R&D issues related to individual programs. We 
conducted this work in accordance with generally accepted government 
auditing standards. More detailed information on the scope and 
methodology from our previous work can be found within each specific 

DHS Could Reduce Cost Overruns and Procurement Delays by Completing 
Testing and Conducting Cost-Benefit Analyses before Deploying 
Technologies and Systems: 

In March 2011, we reported that in managing its multibillion-dollar 
research and development efforts, DHS had experienced cost overruns 
and delays in the procurement and deployment of technologies and 
systems needed to meet critical homeland security needs.[Footnote 2] 
We further reported that DHS could help reduce inefficiencies and 
costs by completing testing efforts before making acquisition 
decisions and by including cost-benefit analyses in its research and 
development efforts. 

Overview of Our Past DHS R&D Work: 

DHS has made acquisition decisions without completing testing efforts 
to ensure that the systems purchased meet program requirements. Our 
prior work has shown that failure to resolve problems discovered 
during testing can sometimes lead to costly redesign and rework at a 
later date. Addressing such problems during the testing phase before 
moving to the acquisition phase can help agencies avoid future cost 
overruns. Specifically: 

* In September 2010, we reported that the Domestic Nuclear Detection 
Office (DNDO) was simultaneously engaged in the research and 
development phase while planning for the acquisition phase of its 
cargo advanced automated radiography system to detect certain nuclear 
materials in vehicles and containers at ports.[Footnote 3] DNDO 
pursued the deployment of the cargo advanced automated radiography 
system without fully understanding that it would not fit within 
existing inspection lanes at ports of entry and would slow down the 
flow of commerce through these lanes, causing significant delays. DHS 
spent $113 million on the program since 2005. DHS canceled the 
acquisition phase of the program in 2007. 

* In June 2010, we reported that the Coast Guard placed orders for or 
received significant numbers of units for three programs--the Maritime 
Patrol Aircraft, Response Boat-Medium, and Sentinel Class Patrol Boat--
prior to completing testing, placing the Coast Guard at risk for 
needing to make expensive changes to the design of these vessels after 
production had begun if significant problems were to be identified 
during future testing.[Footnote 4] Acquisition cost estimates for 
these three programs together totaled about $6.8 billion, according to 
Coast Guard data. 

* In October 2009, we reported that TSA deployed explosives trace 
portals, a technology for detecting traces of explosives on passengers 
at airport checkpoints, even though TSA officials were aware that 
tests conducted during 2004 and 2005 on earlier models of the portals 
suggested the portals did not demonstrate reliable performance in an 
airport environment.[Footnote 5] TSA also lacked assurance that the 
portals would meet functional requirements in airports within 
estimated costs. In addition, the machines were more expensive to 
install and maintain than expected. In June 2006, TSA halted 
deployment of the explosives trace portals because of performance 
problems. We recommended that TSA ensure that tests are completed 
before deploying checkpoint screening technologies to airports. The 
agency concurred with the recommendation and has taken action to 
address it. For example, TSA has required more-recent passenger 
checkpoint technologies to complete both laboratory tests and 
operational tests prior to their deployment. 

In addition, our prior work has shown that cost-benefit analyses help 
congressional and agency decision makers assess and prioritize 
resource investments and consider potentially more cost-effective 
alternatives. However, DHS has not consistently included cost-benefit 
analyses in its testing efforts and acquisition decision making. 

* In 2006, we recommended that DHS's decision to deploy next-
generation radiation-detection equipment, or advanced spectroscopic 
portals, used to detect smuggled nuclear or radiological materials, be 
based on an analysis of both the benefits and costs--which we later 
estimated at over $2 billion--and a determination of whether any 
additional detection capability provided by the portals was worth 
their additional cost.[Footnote 6] DHS subsequently issued a cost-
benefit analysis, but in June 2009, we reported that this analysis did 
not provide a sound analytical basis for DHS's decision to deploy the 
portals. We also reported that an updated cost-benefit analysis might 
show that DNDO's plan to replace existing equipment with advanced 
spectroscopic portals was not justified, particularly given the 
marginal improvement in detection of certain nuclear materials 
required of advanced spectroscopic portals and the potential to 
improve the current-generation portal monitors' sensitivity to nuclear 
materials, most likely at a lower cost.[Footnote 7] At that time, DNDO 
officials stated that they planned to update the cost-benefit 
analysis. After spending more than $200 million on the program, in 
February 2010 DHS announced that it was scaling back its plans for 
development and use of the portals technology. 

* In October 2009, we reported that TSA had not yet completed a cost- 
benefit analysis to prioritize and fund its technology investments for 
screening passengers at airport checkpoints.[Footnote 8] One reason 
that TSA had difficulty developing a cost-benefit analysis was that it 
had not yet developed life-cycle cost estimates for its various 
screening technologies. We reported that this information was 
important because it would help decision makers determine, given the 
cost of various technologies, which technology provided the greatest 
mitigation of risk for the resources that were available. We 
recommended that TSA develop a cost-benefit analysis. TSA agreed with 
this recommendation and has completed a life-cycle cost estimate and 
collected information for its checkpoint technologies, but has not yet 
completed a cost-benefit analysis. 

In January 2011, DHS reported that it planned to take additional 
actions to strengthen its R&D efforts. For example, DHS reported that 
it planned to establish a new model for managing departmentwide 
investments across their life cycles. DHS reported that S&T will be 
involved in each phase of the investment life cycle and will 
participate in new councils and boards DHS is planning to create to 
help ensure that test and evaluation methods are appropriately 
considered as part of DHS's overall research and development 
investment strategies. According to DHS, S&T will help ensure that new 
technologies are properly scoped, developed, and tested before being 
implemented. In addition, DHS reported that the new councils and 
boards it is planning to establish to strengthen management of the 
department's acquisition and investment review process will be 
responsible for, among other things, making decisions on research and 
development initiatives based on factors such as viability and 
affordability, and overseeing key acquisition decisions for major 
programs using baseline and actual data. 

Actions Needed and Potential Cost Savings: 

Our work has highlighted the need for DHS to strengthen its R&D 
efforts by ensuring that (1) testing efforts are completed before 
making acquisition decisions and (2) cost-benefit analyses are 
conducted to reduce research and development inefficiencies and 
costs.[Footnote 9] The planned actions DHS reports it is taking or has 
under way to address management of its research and development 
programs are positive steps and, if implemented effectively, could 
help the department address many of these challenges. However, it is 
too early to fully assess the effect of these actions. 

Rigorously testing devices using actual agency operational tactics 
before making decisions on acquisition would help DHS reduce 
inefficiencies and costs. Further, conducting cost-benefit analyses as 
part of research, development, and testing efforts would help DHS and 
congressional decision makers better assess and prioritize investment 
decisions, including assessing possible program alternatives that 
could be more cost-effective. We are currently assessing S&T's efforts 
to oversee testing and evaluation across DHS for the Senate Committee 
on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and plan to report on 
that issue later this year. 

Chairman Quayle, Ranking Member Wu, and Members of the Subcommittee, 
this concludes my prepared statement. I would be pleased to respond to 
any questions that you or other members of the subcommittee may have. 

Contacts and Acknowledgments: 

For questions about this statement, please contact David C. Maurer at 
(202) 512-9627 or Contact points for our Offices of 
Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found on the last 
page of this statement. Individuals making key contributions to this 
statement include Chris Currie, Ned Woodward, and Michele Mackin, 
Assistant Directors; Bintou Njie, Joe Dewechter, Molly Traci, and 
Kevin Tarmann. Key contributors for the previous work that this 
testimony is based on can be found within each individual report. 

[End of section] 

Related GAO Products: 

Opportunities to Reduce Potential Duplication in Government Programs, 
Save Tax Dollars, and Enhance Revenue. [hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C.: March 

Combating Nuclear Smuggling: Inadequate Communication and Oversight 
Hampered DHS Efforts to Develop an Advanced Radiography System to 
Detect Nuclear Materials. [hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C.: September 
15, 2010. 

Combating Nuclear Smuggling: DHS Has Made Some Progress but Not Yet 
Completed a Strategic Plan for Its Global Nuclear Detection Efforts or 
Closed Identified Gaps. [hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C.: June 30, 

Department of Homeland Security: Assessments of Selected Complex 
Acquisitions. [hyperlink,]. 
Washington, D.C.: June 30, 2010. 

Aviation Security: DHS and TSA Have Researched, Developed, and Begun 
Deploying Passenger Checkpoint Screening Technologies, but Continue to 
Face Challenges. [hyperlink,]. 
Washington, D.C.: October 7, 2009. 

Combating Nuclear Smuggling: Lessons Learned from DHS Testing of 
Advanced Radiation Detection Portal Monitors. [hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C.: June 25, 

Combating Nuclear Smuggling: DHS Improved Testing of Advanced 
Radiation Detection Portal Monitors, but Preliminary Results Show 
Limits of the New Technology. [hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C.: May 21, 

[End of section] 


[1] GAO, Opportunities to Reduce Potential Duplication in Government 
Programs, Save Tax Dollars, and Enhance Revenue, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: March 
2011). See also related GAO products at the end of this statement. 

[2] [hyperlink,]. 

[3] GAO, Combating Nuclear Smuggling: Inadequate Communication and 
Oversight Hampered DHS Efforts to Develop an Advanced Radiography 
System to Detect Nuclear Materials, [hyperlink,] (Washington D.C.: Sept. 15, 

[4] GAO, Department of Homeland Security: Assessments of Selected 
Complex Acquisitions, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: June 30, 

[5] GAO, Aviation Security: DHS and TSA Have Researched, Developed, 
and Begun Deploying Passenger Checkpoint Screening Technologies, but 
Continue to Face Challenge, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: Oct. 7, 

[6] GAO, Combating Nuclear Smuggling: DHS's Program to Procure and 
Deploy Advanced Radiation Detection Portal Monitors Is Likely to 
Exceed the Department's Previous Cost Estimates, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 22, 

[7] GAO, Combating Nuclear Smuggling: Lessons Learned from DHS Testing 
of Advanced Radiation Detection Portal Monitors, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: June 25, 

[8] [hyperlink,]. 

[9] [hyperlink,]. 

[End of section] 

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