‘Beleaguered’ Homeland Security agency wastes $57 million on failed computer contract

A scandal involving $57 million in government contract dollars is set to rock the Federal Protective Service, a small agency within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Congressional Democrats and Republicans have criticized the service in recent years, and both law enforcement reform organizations and labor unions have excoriated its managers for their handling of a 2008 project plagued by scheduling delays, cost overruns and conflicts of interest.

California Republican Rep. Dan Lungren has called a hearing for Tuesday before his House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies. The hearing will focus on the service’s continued failure to manage a computer software contract meant to reform its oversight of private security forces.

FPS is a law enforcement agency charged with overseeing a force of approximately 13,000 private sector security guards, employed by 38 contractors, who protect nearly 9,000 federal buildings. Homeland Security Today reported on July 3 that FPS “budgeted $775 million for private guards in fiscal year (FY) 2012 and expects to pay $796 million for them next year.”

The agency also directly employs about 1,200 workers, most of whom oversee the private-sector security contractors.

In 2007, while FPS fell under the management umbrella of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, it began developing the Risk Assessment and Management Program (RAMP), a computer program intended to streamline the management of those security contracts and oversight of the guards themselves. RAMP was to be FPS’s largest contracted program, projected to roll out July 31, 2009, at a cost of $21 million.

In August 2008, a contract for that $21 million deal was “competitively awarded” to Booz Allen Hamilton. Homeland Security Today reported in April that the deal was to last seven years.

Despite systemic problems with RAMP and a series of warnings and criticisms from auditors and whistle-blowers, government bureaucrats in both Republican and Democratic administrations kept the program alive.

Separate reports, by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in July 2011 and DHS’s Office of Inspector General in March 2012, found that agency bureaucrats, led by FPS Risk Management Division Director Susan Burrill, overspent on RAMP and were far behind schedule — with nothing to show for the $21 million outlay, spent in its entirety after just two years.

“In an attempt to meet deployment milestones, FPS expended all $21 million of obligated funds by 2010, 5 years sooner than expected,” the inspector general declared in that report.

Yet Booz Allen won a second award to work on RAMP. “In May 2010, ICE awarded the original developer a second contract, called a logical follow-on, to continue RAMP development and prepare for the transition to NPPD,” the inspector general reported.

NPPD is the National Protection and Programs Directorate, an agency that took over FPS’s operation in October 2009, when President Barack Obama signed Homeland Security appropriations legislation that removed it from ICE’s umbrella.

Burrill received an award at a trade convention in late May 2010 for her work on the soon-to-fail RAMP program.

On its blog, DHS bragged that Burrill “was honored for her work,” writing that she was one of eight out of 100 nominees who won NextGov awards for “forward-thinking technology solutions” that year.