In the rush to protect the nation, the federal government has handed out billions of dollars worth of contracts for security systems to prevent another terrorist attack. An ongoing examination of those and other contracts by The Washington Post have found that the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies have failed to properly supervise those projects, the costs are climbing far above the original estimates and some of the systems are not performing as promised. Federal spending on procurement has more than doubled over the past seven years to more than $400 billion annually, and more than half of all contracts have been awarded without full and open competition.
The cost to put a new kind of radiation monitor in place at borders and ports across the country would be far more than the Department of Homeland Security initially told Congress, according to budget documents and interviews with officials.
Honors and Awards
Robert O'Harrow Jr. is an investigative reporter on the business desk at The Washington Post, who has recently focussed on government contracting, fraud, waste and abuse. A Pulitzer Prize finalist and winner of the top award from the Investigative Reporters and Editors group, O'Harrow is now exploring the interection of the Intelligence Community and commercial world.
O'Harrow had previously carved out beat about the data revolution, uncovering stories about the use of personal information that spurred changes in state and federal law. In 1999 and this year, he was a finalist for the Gerald Loeb award for business reporting. In 2000, he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for a series about privacy and technology.
In 2003, O'Harrow won the Carnegie Mellon Cybersecurity Award.
In 2006, O'Harrow and his reporting partner, Scott Higham, won the top award for investigative reporting from Investigative Reporters and Editors for a series of stories about contracting fraud, waste and abuse called, "The High Price of Homeland Security."
The Post's Robert O'Harrow Jr. shines a light on the good, bad and sometimes unsettling world of federal contracting.
Lucrative Contracts, Legal Problems Unisys Corp. has been at the center of several procurement-fraud cases over the years, two of which included allegations that the company submitted inflated labor costs on federal contracts. The following are some of those cases.
High Cost of Homeland Security Staff Writers Robert O'Harrow and Scott Higham will be online on Oct. 24 to answer reader questions about their ongoing coverage of the Dept. of Homeland Security.
DHS Inspector General Memo to Sec. RidgeIn this March 18, 2003, memo, then Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Clark Kent Ervin said he tried to alert then DHS secretary Tom Ridge that changes needed to be made to the department's procurement processes. (PDF)
2004 Memo by GAO's DavisIn this 2004 Memo, Glen Davis, on loan from the General Accountibility Office to the Senate Select Committee on Homeland Security, details management problems at DHS. (PDF)
Entries from Sec. Ridge's CalendarThese entries from former DHS secretary Tom Ridge's calendar show meetings where Ridge reportedly complained to then Inspector General Ervin that his reports were too negative. (PDF)
Key Government Reports on Homeland Security Contracting