THE MAGAZINE

The State of Bioterrorism Surveillance

By Lilly Chapa

Leadership turnover has also created confusion and made accountability elusive. During the House hearing on BioWatch in June, representatives grew frustrated with Dr. Walter, who was unable to discuss problems occurring before he came in 2009. When asked whether the first lab-in-a-box technology, Gen-2.5, had been pulled because it didn’t work, Walter said he did not know because that program predated him.

The DHS had also been charged with running an internal investigation on the program, but Walter said he didn’t know the results of the investigation or whether an investigation had taken place.

Last year, the GAO reported that the DHS did not develop critical knowledge before proceeding with the Gen-3 acquisition.

The agency began working on Gen-3 more than a year before completing key parts of the Acquisition Life-Cycle Framework, which is used to minimize waste and determine whether the DHS should move forward with proposed acquisitions.

BioWatch officials stated that they did not justify the necessity of Gen-3 or explore more cost-effective alternatives because there was already departmental consensus about the program, but Walter said they are addressing GAO’s concerns.
Steve Caldwell, director of homeland security and justice issues at the GAO, tells Security Management that Gen-3’s acquisition was rushed and incomplete. “We think part of that problem is not following good acquisition practices in terms of not coming up with good initial requirements, justifying the program, or analyzing alternatives, which they are doing now with hindsight,” Caldwell says. “Once you have those things in place, it’s developing reliable and complete estimates of performance schedules and costs, and trying to stick to those and hitting certain decision points to go forward when you have data, not just moving the program forward ahead of time.”

Although DHS says Gen-3 will greatly reduce detection time, experts doubt it will make much difference if other problems aren’t corrected.
 

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