Homeland Security Can’t Track Its Own Warehouses

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Ethan Barton Editor in Chief
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Department of Homeland Security officials are wasting taxpayers’ money by failing to keep track of how many warehouses their agencies have.

“Because the warehouse inventories are inaccurate, DHS cannot manage warehouses or… limit the size of real property inventories and reduce costs,” the DHS inspector general said in a report made public Tuesday.

“We found buildings that should not have been on the department’s warehouse inventory. Conversely, we found buildings that should have been classified as warehouses, but were not,” the IG said.

The buildings vary in size – including everything from a 45 square-foot shed to a 500,000 square-foot warehouse – and store various items, such as disaster relief supplies, computers, and seized weapons and drugs.

DHS spent an estimated $60 million on around 1,628 warehouses, in 2013, “consisting of nearly 6.3 million square feet, which is about the size of 110 football fields,” the IG said. Of the 210 buildings the IG reviewed, nearly one-quarter were not warehouses.

“In these cases, the components either misclassified buildings as warehouses or did not report accurate information,” the IG said. “The components could not always explain the classification and stated the classification was in error.”

A National Protection and Programs Directorate building classified as a warehouse was used to monitor alarm systems, closed circuit televisions and dispatch communications within federal facilities across the country. NPPD officials told the IG the building was mistakenly misclassified.

Also, some agencies did not understand DHS’s definition of “warehouse.” Officials with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, for example, listed a mobile storage container as a warehouse.

“Although ICE used the structure for storage, it does not have a permanent foundation and should be considered personal property, not a warehouse,” the IG said.

Additionally, another U.S. Customs and Border Protection building used to store seized property, such as weapons and illegal drugs, was listed as a warehouse in 2013, but was erroneously categorized as a laboratory in 2014. Another CBP warehouse used to store old or broken furniture was misclassified as an office.

The IG said three U.S. Customs and Border Protection warehouses could be consolidated to save $1 million per year.

The three CBP buildings stored many obsolete or broken items, including outdated computer systems. Two of the buildings were only four miles apart, while the third was “mostly empty,” the report said.

“The department’s management and oversight is further hindered because it does not know what the components store in their warehouses,” the report said. “This makes decisions to consolidate or close warehouses difficult.”

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