The Price of Government Contracting

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.
Government Cites Litany of Errors in Tanker Award (Post, June 26, 2008)
The Pentagon's Procurement Problem: Flawed Tanker Contract Is Part of Persistent Pattern, Analysts Say (Post, June 20, 2008)
Air Force Faulted Over Handling Of Tanker Deal: Audit Sustains Boeing's Protest of $40 Billion Award (Post, June 19, 2008)
Earmark Spending Makes a Comeback: Congress Pledged Curbs in 2007 (Post, June 13, 2008)
Government Probes at Least 7 Defense Contracts for Charities (Post, June 7, 2008)
McCain Campaign Calls; A Nonprofit Steps In (Post, May 31, 2008)
Doan Ends Her Stormy Tenure as GSA Chief: Resignation Comes at White House's Behest (Post, May 1, 2008)
Pentagon, FBI Probing Air Force Contracts: Questions Raised Over Noncompetitive Deal (Post, April 18, 2008)
When Public Advocates Line Up for Corporations: Back Story Over Air Force Deal Isn't Clear Cut (Post, April 3, 2008)
Centers Tap Into Personal Databases: State Groups Were Formed After 9/11 (Post, April 2, 2008)
National Dragnet Is a Click Away: Authorities to Gain Fast and Expansive Access to Records (Post, March 6, 2008)
DHS Tests of Radiation Detectors Were Inconclusive, Report Says (Post, March 5, 2008)
LexisNexis Parent Set to Buy ChoicePoint (Post, February 22, 2008)
Spies' Battleground Turns Virtual: Intelligence Officials See 3-D Online Worlds as Havens for Criminals (Post, February 6, 2008)
Millions in Earmarks Purchase Little of Use (Post, December 29, 2007)
A Contractor, Charity And Magnet for Federal Earmarks (Post, November 2, 2007)
Building Blackwater: Founder Seeks 'Better, Smarter, Faster' Security As History, Iraq Shape the Firm's Fortunes (Post, October 13, 2007)
Air Force Told to Detail No-Work Contract Deal (Post, October 6, 2007)
Air Force Arranged No-Work Contract: Experts Question Official's Deal With Nonprofit (Post, October 1, 2007)
Sun Cancels GSA Contract After Price Abuse Probe (Post, September 15, 2007)
House Committee Probes No-Bid Contract at DHS (Post, September 8, 2007)
Federal No-Bid Contracts On Rise: Use of Favored Firms A Common Shortcut (Post, August 22, 2007)
Review of Radiation Detectors Questioned (Post, August 16, 2007)
Costs Skyrocket As DHS Runs Up No-Bid Contracts: $2 Million Security Project Balloons to $124 Million (Post, June 28, 2007)
More in This Series
Key DHS Documents

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

Homeland Security: Successes and Challenges in DHS's Efforts to Create an Effective AcquisitionGovernment Accountability Office, March 2005 (PDF - 46 pages, 2.7 MB)

Transportation Security Administration: High-Level Attention Needed to Strengthen Acquisition FunctionGovernment Accountability Office, May 2004 (PDF - 40 pages, 448 KB )

Aviation Security: Systematic Planning Needed to Optimize the Deployment of Checked Baggage ScreeningGovernment Accountability Office, March 2005 (PDF - 78 pages, 3.6MB)

Homeland Security: Agency Plans, Implementation, and Challenges Regarding the National Strategy for Homeland SecurityGovernment Accountability Office, Jan. 2005 (PDF - 198 pages, 3.1 MB)

Department of Homeland Security: A Comprehensive and Sustained Approach Needed to Achieve Management IntegrationGovernment Accountability Office, March 2005 (PDF - 39 pages, 522KB)

Homeland Security: Some Progress Made, but Many Challenges Remain on U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology ProgramGovernment Accountability Office, February 2005 (PDF - 142 pages, 1.9 MB)

Program Assessment Rating for Department of Homeland SecurityOffice of Management and Budget

Follow-Up Audit of Passenger and Baggage Screening Procedures at Domestic Airports (Unclassified Summary)DHS Inspector General, March 2005 (PDF, 8 pages - 1.9 KB)

Implementation of the United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology Program at Land Border Ports of EntryDHS Inspector General, February 2005 (PDF, 42 pages - 1.3 KB)

Major Managment Challenges Facing the Department of Homeland SecurityDHS Inspector General, Dec. 2004 (PDF - 25 pages, 303 KB)

An Evaluation of the Transportation Security Administration's Screener Training and Methods of TestingDHS Inspector General, Sept. 2004 (PDF, 122 pages - 8.3 MB)

Evaluation of TSA's Contract for the Installation and Maintenance of Explosive Detection Equipment at United States AirportsDHS Inspector General, September 2004 (PDF, 30 pages - 2.5 MB)

Effectiveness of Customs and Border Protection's Procedures to Detect Uranium In Two Smuggling IncidentsDHS Inspector General, September 2004 (PDF, 10 pages - 318 kB)

DHS Challenges in Consolidating Terrorist Watch List InformationDHS Inspector General, August 2004 (PDF, 54 pages - 577 KB)

An Evaluation of the Security Implications of the Visa Waiver ProgramDHS Inspector General, April 2004 (PDF, 52 pages - 1.4 MB)

IDENT/IAFIS: The Batres Case and the Status of the Integration ProjectJustice Department Inspector General, March 2004 (PDF - 44 pages, 33KB)

Challenges Exist in Stabilizing and Enhancing Passenger and Baggage Screening OperationsGovernment Accountability Office, February 2004 (PDF - 41 page, 339 KB)

Key Issues Concerning Implementation of the Aviation and Transportation Security ActDepartment of Transportation, Feb. 2002 (PDF - 22 pages, 302 KB)

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