GAO has raised concerns that DHS’s widespread and growing use of service contractors risks having private sector companies perform tasks that are inherently governmental in nature, “which could put the government at risk of losing control of its mission if performed by contractors without proper oversight by government officials.”
GAO said that contracts for the types of services that are “in need of heightened management attention”—such as drafting policy documents or performing market research or drafting statements of work for contracts–grew from 6 to 9.5 billion over 2013-2018. However, it said that DHS has not consistently planned for the level of federal oversight needed for such contracts “because there is no guidance on how to document and update the number of federal personnel needed to conduct oversight.”
In six of eight contracts GAO examined, DHS program and contracting officials “did not identify specific oversight activities they conducted to mitigate the risk of contractors performing functions in a way that could become inherently governmental. DHS lacks guidance on what these oversight tasks could entail. Without guidance for documenting and updating the planned federal oversight personnel needed, and identifying oversight tasks, DHS cannot mitigate the risks associated with service contracts in need of heightened management attention,” a report said.
“Given that services account for over three-quarters of DHS’s annual funding for contracts, additional insights would shed light into how much of DHS’s mission is being accomplished through services, including those requiring heightened management attention,” it said.
DHS however agreed with only two of GAO’s six recommendations.