The Department of Homeland Security has not effectively managed its equipment and antiviral stockpiles that could be necessary to keep its workforce operable in the event of a pandemic, a new watchdog report concludes.
The audit, conducted by the DHS Office of Inspector General, uncovered concerns about expiration of goods and lack of controls on inventory.
For example, of the 4,982 bottles of DHS-stockpiled hand sanitizer auditors examined, 4,184–or 84 percent–were expired (some by 4 years). The audit further found that 81 percent of antiviral medical countermeasures owned by DHS’s Office of Health Affairs are set to expire by the end of next year.
The audit also revealed that the department had a lot of supplies to provide to personnel in the event of a pandemic but did not necessarily have controls on quantity or complete knowledge of the location of those goods. For example, DHS has some 16 million surgical masks and 350,000 white coverall suits but “no justification” for those quantities of supplies.
“Specifically, [DHS] did not have clear and documented methodologies to determine the types and quantities of personal protective equipment and antiviral medical counter measures it purchased for workforce protection,” the audit reads. “The Department also did not develop and implement stock pile replenishment plans, sufficient inventory controls to monitor stockpiles, adequate contract oversight processes, or ensure compliance with Department guidelines. As a result, the Department has no assurance it has sufficient personal protective equipment and antiviral medical countermeasures for a pandemic response.”
The audit notes that DHS reported it spent the $47 million Congress appropriated in 2006 for pandemic preparations on “personal protective equipment, pandemic research, exercises, and medical countermeasures.”
The OIG’s press release Monday about the audit concluded in its headline: “DHS Ill-prepared for Pandemic Response.”
“DHS is responsible for ensuring it is adequately prepared to continue critical operations in the event of a pandemic,” Inspector General John Roth said in a statement. “I am pleased that department officials have concurred with the intent of the 11 recommendations made in the report. We will work with them to see that this vital program is strengthened.”
In DHS’s response letter, Jim Crumpacker, the director of the Departmental GAO-OIG Liaison Office, agreed in principle to all 11 recommendations but took issue with the OIG’s emphasis on some of the details, specifically not seeking personal protective equipment and medical countermeasures as the “final levels of control available to the Department” in the “hierarchy of controls.”
Crumpacker also pushed back against the OIG’s contention that 81 percent of the department’s antiviral stockpiles will expire by 2015. as the dates have been “extended.” According to Crumpacker, 15 percent of its antiviral stockpile is expected to expire at the end of next year. He added DHS is “assured that it has sufficient [personal protective equipment] and antiviral [medical countermeasures].”