Friday, March 31, 2006

$1 Billion Later

Feeling safer yet? It's the incompetence, stupid. AP (03.31.06):
"For close to $1 billion, airport security officials think they ought to have closed circuit televisions that work, telephones that can put callers on hold and radios that reach all corners of the airport.

But some officials don't have the equipment they need because the Transportation Security Administration didn't keep proper tabs on its billion-dollar contract with Unisys, according to a Homeland Security Department inspector general report released Thursday."

Report: TSA Got Little for $1 Billion

"Unisys performed so poorly that the inspector general, Richard Skinner, recommended that the project be put out for bid again."

"'The original funding is almost exhausted but many airports still do not have basic information technology and a telecommunications infrastructure,' the report said."

"Blue Bell, Pa.-based Unisys did not reply to a request for comment."

What were some of the problems? Unisys gave the TSA radios that "didn't always communicate with each other inside the same concourse". The contract dictated that Unisys was to "upgrade software that a regular user could have updated easily." Some of the cell phones Unisys supplied were "so old they actually have a mechanical bell that rings." Bells in a cell phone. Nice.

Under the contract, "Unisys was to have provided dial-up connections, laptops, pagers and cell phones by Nov. 19, 2002. Six weeks later, the company was to have delivered high-speed connections, phones, encrypted radios and an electronic surveillance system. Eventually, Unisys was to provide command centers at airports, advanced wireless communications and interoperable radios."

How well did they do? To date, Unisys has only performed the first phase. Give them credit though. They were only two years behind schedule with that.

Richard has been ripping large chunks out of Homeland Security of late. Washington Post (12.29.05):

"Nearly three years after it was formed, the immense Department of Homeland Security remains hampered by severe management and financial problems that contributed to the flawed response to Hurricane Katrina, according to an independent audit released yesterday."

Homeland Security Is Faulted in Audit

"In addition, the report found, 'the circumstances created by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita provide an unprecedented opportunity for fraud, waste and abuse,' primarily because FEMA's grant and contract programs are still not being managed properly."

Homeland Security has not brooked criticism lightly from previous inspectors general. ABCNews (12.10.04):

"Clark Ervin [Harvard law, Rhodes Scholar] made himself very unpopular by issuing a series of stinging reports on security programs that he said had failed, officials he called inept, and fraud that he suspected.

His year-end report, out today, alleges that millions of dollars have been wasted or are unaccounted for by the department."

Official Who Criticized Homeland Security Is Out of a Job

Clark left Homeland Security in a "mysterious fashion. Appointed by President Bush in December 2003 when Congress was out of session, Ervin was never confirmed by the Senate. Nor was he renominated by the White House this month when his 'recess appointment' - which lasted until the congressional session ended - expired Dec. 8."

All things considered, it wasn't so mysterious. "'This actually is being done through the White House,' said a former DHS official who requested anonymity because he continues to work with the department."

Richard, who was Clark's deputy inspector general, succeeded him.

While inspector general, Clark issued reports finding that:

  • "Undercover investigators were able to sneak explosives and weapons past security screeners at 15 airports during tests in 2003."

  • "Federal air marshals, hired to provide a last line of defense against terrorists on airlines, slept on the job, tested positive for alcohol or drugs while on duty, lost their weapons and falsified information in 2002."

  • "Department leaders should have taken a more aggressive role in efforts to combine the government's myriad terrorist watch lists since the department was created in 2003."

  • "The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) gave executive bonuses of $16,477 to 88 of its 116 senior managers in 2003, an amount one-third higher than the bonuses given to executives at any other federal agency."

  • "The TSA spent nearly $500,000 on an awards banquet for employees in November 2003. The cost included $1,500 for three cheese displays and $3.75 for each soft drink."
Yum!! We like cheese. But that's kind of a lot for a soda.

Oh and by the way, if you want to read Richard's Unisys report, good luck finding it on the Homeland Security website. On the other hand, if for some perverse reason, you're into the collected remarks of Michael Chertoff, that would be the place to go.

UPDATE: Skinner's report, courtesy of Corruption Chronicles.


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