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Thursday, February 14, 2008

DHS preparing for new administration

The Homeland Security Department will face a challenging year as it prepares for a new administration and works to improve an often-criticized procurement office.

“During a transition period, there’s a period of several weeks, or perhaps months, where a department is practically incapable of making a decision,” Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., warned Wednesday. “We can’t afford that in Homeland Security.”

Rogers, the ranking member, spoke at a House Appropriations subcommittee on Homeland Security hearing, the first of 16 promised on the department’s management.

DHS Inspector General Richard Skinner agreed with Rogers, noting that the 5-year-old department is still “fragile.”

Comptroller General David Walker told the subcommittee he had been briefed on the department’s human capital transformation framework and was impressed with it.

Several lawmakers suggested that the department is struggling to hire qualified personnel.

“We know employee morale at the department is the lowest in the federal government,” said Rep. David Price, D-N.C., the subcommittee chairman. “We know that the department has poor procurement practices and poor financial management. I could go on.”

The hearing also touched on financial management problems at the Coast Guard. The service had hoped to certify its financial statements by 2009; the target date has since been pushed back to 2011. Skinner and Walker called for the Coast Guard to restructure its financial management office. The chief financial officer is military, not civilian, so the CFO’s office never develops stable leadership.

“I’m being introduced to my third CFO in five years,” Walker said.

-Gregg Carlstrom, FederalTimes.com

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