Nuclear detectors a $4 billion bust, GAO says
The Department of Homeland Security spent billions of dollars on machines to intercept nuclear terrorists that were too big for border inspection lanes, the Government Accountabiity Office reported Wednesday.
Why? “Because during the first year or more of the program,” the auditors said, the two DHS units involved -- the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office and Customs and Border Protection -- “had few discussions about operating requirements at ports of entry.”
“CBP officials said they made it clear to DNDO,” the report said, “that they did not want the [nuclear detecting] machines because they would not fit in primary inspections lanes and would slow down the flow of commerce through these lanes and cause significant delays.”
Software for the Cargo Advanced Automated Radiography Systems, CAARS, as they are called, also was not up to snuff, the GAO said. Or as the auditors put it, “a key part of the machine needed to identify shielded nuclear materials automatically … did not mature at a rapid enough pace to warrant acquisition and deployment.”
Moreover, DHS budget proposals also hid “the actual status of the program,” the GAO said.
“For example, the fiscal years 2010 and 2011 DHS budget justifications both cited that an ongoing CAARS testing campaign would lead to a cost-benefit analysis," the report said. "However, DNDO officials told GAO that when they cancelled the acquisition part of the program in 2007, they also decided not to conduct any associated cost benefit analysis.”
The leaders of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, “slammed the department for not having a strategic plan to develop critical technology that could prevent a nuclear terrorist attack on the U.S.,” the Associated Press reported.
"We're not happy or satisfied with progress on the whole nuclear detection architecture," Lieberman said.
DHS’s nuclear detection program has been troubled for years, having spent more than $4 billion since 2003 with nothing to show for it.
DHS said it's working on it.
"We are mindful of getting something delivered that has a credible basis for the implementation plan that follows," Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute told the Senate Homeland and Governmental Affairs committee, the AP reported.
| September 16, 2010; 5:05 AM ET
Categories: Financial/business, Homeland Security, Intelligence | Tags: Jane Holl Lute, Joseph Lieberman, Susan Collins
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