Interior Dept Spent $50 Million On A Crime Database That Doesn’t Work

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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House lawmakers had some harsh words for a top Department of the Interior (DOI) official over the agency’s failure to create a functioning law enforcement database for federal lands after wasting $50 million over more than a decade.

“This is government incompetence rivaled only by the roll-out of the Obamacare website,” Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert said in opening comments during a House Committee on Natural Resources hearing Thursday.

“This is government waste, fraud and abuse to the extreme,” Gohmert said.

Gohmert is referring to Interior’s project to create a department-wide law enforcement database called the Incident Management, Analysis, and Reporting System, or IMARS. DOI started working on the database shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, and it’s supposed to help officials track “use of force reporting, weapons qualification tracking, offline incident reporting, various mapping options, and more,” according to a House hearing memo.

DOI hasn’t fully implemented IMARS. It’s only been partially rolled out and suffers from numerous issues, according to Gohmert. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials have also refused to use IMARS and won’t fund the program.

Lawmakers are clearly not happy there’s been slow progress on IMARS despite spending $50 million over more than a decade to implement the program. DOI even admitted in its 2017 budget request only 14 percent of verified, reportable incidents were put into IMARS in 2015. That’s not good enough for Congress.

“While IMARs initially held major promise to help officers report and track important data, the department’s implementation of the system has been slow and expensive,” Michigan Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell said. “We need to know why. We need to understand.”

From the beginning, IMARs was beset by problems. DOI paid Lockheed Martin $4.4 million in 2006 for “for a pilot project to develop an integrated information technology system to improve Interior’s law enforcement, emergency management, and security operations.”

That contractor apparently “botched the job,” according to Dingell. In fact, a 2009 DOI inspector general report found “there were delays in the IMARS contract solicitation process.” The IG noted “repeated delays and excessive cost have caused some bureaus to lose confidence in the IMARS program and question whether it will ever be operational.”

In 2010, DOI paid Niche Technology $9.9 million to finish the project, but even so IMARS has not been fully implemented across Interior’s seven law enforcement agencies.

Harry Humbert, the head of resource protection and emergency services at DOI, had a much rosier picture of the state of IMARS, saying the database was operational and was already improving law enforcement on federal lands.

“The IMARS is now operational and allows the bureaus to readily share law enforcement information across the Department,” Hubert told lawmakers, according to his prepared testimony.

“To date, five of the seven Department law enforcement programs,” he said. “In total, close to 4,000 of the Department’s 4,900 law enforcement officers and operations personnel currently use IMARS.”

Update: An earlier version of this story stated DOI spent $15 million on IMARS, but that’s just what the department spent on contractors. The actual cost of IMARS is well over $50 million, according to figures compiled by the House Committee On Natural Resources.

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