Is the Department of Homeland Security operating in a way that compromises its reason for being? A new inspector general's report suggests that may be the case.
The department was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to coordinate communication between agencies like the the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Defense, the Federal Aviation Administration and federal, state and local emergency responders during national disasters.
DHS currently operates and maintains 20 radio networks that help agents and officers communicate. But an audit released Tuesday by the department's inspector general said not only does DHS not know what radio equipment it has, it also cannot make wise decisions about what to buy.
The IG also found that two warehouses stored more than 8,000 pieces of radio equipment -- valued at $28 million -- for a year or more, despite shortages of needed equipment at other programs.
Radio equipment and radio sites managed by DHS are valued at more than $1 billion, according to the audit. Yet, DHS risks "wasting taxpayer funds on equipment purchases and radio system investments that are not needed, sustainable, supportable, or affordable," the audit said.
Bad management could hinder efforts to upgrade its communications system, which continues to age quickly since its creation in the late 1980s, the audit reported.
In March 2012, DHS awarded a $3 billion contract to upgrade its radio systems, but by September 2012 only $33 million had been spent.
Data on leased radio equipment was also incomplete. For example, 99 percent of leases by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement could be not be found in DHS's Real Property Inventory System, leases that cost $1.5 million annually.
Without a complete inventory, DHS won't be able to effectively "plan, budget, schedule and acquire upgrades and replacements," the IG said.