US

Audit: Homeland Security ‘Ill-Prepared’ For Pandemic

Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter

The Department of Homeland Security is “ill-prepared” for a pandemic, according to the agency’s Office of the Inspector General.

The inspector general, which released the report Monday, found that the agency has failed to manage its stockpile of protective gear and antiviral medications. At the same time, it has an over-abundance of some supplies which would be useless in the event of a severe outbreak, such as influenza.

“DHS did not adequately conduct a needs assessment prior to purchasing pandemic preparedness supplies and then did not effectively manage its stockpile of pandemic personal protective equipment (PPE) and antiviral medical countermeasures (MCM),” the report reads.

The audit was conducted of supplies provided through $47 million in supplemental funding Congress gave to DHS in 2006 “to plan, train, and prepare for a potential pandemic.”

All of the approximately 192,000 courses of the anti-flu medication Tamiflu will expire in fiscal year 2015, according to the OIG audit. Forty-six percent of the approximately 103,000 courses of Relenza will expire by that time as well.

In its response to the OIG report, DHS said that it has applied to the Food and Drug Administration to extend the shelf-life of the medication. The OIG applauded the effort, but warned that the extension has not been approved and that “even with the extension” the agency may still not be fully stocked in the event of a pandemic.

“DHS acquired most of its stockpile of antiviral MCM in FY 2009, but did not implement an acquisition management plan that included a strategy for replenishment. Having an acquisition management plan would ensure its stockpile continued to meet its needs,” the report states.

The agency has an over-abundance of some medical equipment, much of which is past its expiration date.

It has a stockpile of 350,000 white coverall suits and approximately 16 million surgical masks that it has no use for.

“No justification or related documentation was available to support that this quantity and type of PPE was necessary for pandemic response,” the OIG reports.

The Transportation Security Administration has 200,000 respirators that are past their five-year manufacturer’s guarantee. And 84 percent of nearly 5,000 bottles of hand sanitizer are also expired, according to the report.

The audit also found that DHS’s various sub-agencies such as Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not properly manage, record, and report the medications it received from DHS. Some medications were reported destroyed when they had not actually been. Other agencies were unaware that they had medications in inventory.

Follow Chuck on Twitter