House lawmakers had some harsh words for a top Department of theInterior (DOI) official over the agency’s failure to create afunctioning law enforcement database for federal lands afterwasting $50 million over more than a decade.
“This is government incompetence rivaled only by the roll-out ofthe Obamacare website,” Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert said inopening comments during a House Committee on Natural Resourceshearing Thursday.
“This is government waste, fraud and abuse to the extreme,”Gohmert said.
Gohmert is referring to Interior’s project to create adepartment-wide law enforcement database called the IncidentManagement, Analysis, and Reporting System, or IMARS. DOI startedworking on the database shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001,terror attacks, and it’s supposed to help officials track “use offorce reporting, weapons qualification tracking, offline incidentreporting, various mapping options, and more,” accordingto a House hearing memo.
DOI hasn’t fully implemented IMARS. It’s only been partiallyrolled out and suffers from numerous issues, according to Gohmert.U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials have also refused to useIMARS and won’t fund the program.
Lawmakers are clearly not happy there’s been slow progress onIMARS despite spending $50 million over more than a decade toimplement the program. DOI even admitted in its 2017 budget requestonly 14 percent of verified, reportable incidents were put intoIMARS in 2015. That’s not good enough for Congress.
“While IMARs initially held major promise to help officersreport and track important data, the department’s implementation ofthe system has been slow and expensive,” Michigan Democratic Rep.Debbie Dingell said. “We need to know why. We need tounderstand.”
From the beginning, IMARs was beset by problems. DOI paidLockheed Martin $4.4 million in 2006 for “for a pilot project to develop anintegrated information technology system to improve Interior’s lawenforcement, emergency management, and security operations.”
That contractor apparently “botched the job,” according toDingell. In fact, a 2009 DOI inspector general report found “there were delays inthe IMARS contract solicitation process.” The IG noted “repeateddelays and excessive cost have caused some bureaus to loseconfidence in the IMARS program and question whether it will everbe operational.”
In 2010, DOI paid Niche Technology $9.9 million to finish the project, but even so IMARS has notbeen fully implemented across Interior’s seven law enforcementagencies.
Harry Humbert, the head of resource protection and emergencyservices at DOI, had a much rosier picture of the state of IMARS,saying the database was operational and was already improving lawenforcement on federal lands.
“The IMARS is now operational and allows the bureaus to readilyshare law enforcement information across the Department,” Huberttold lawmakers, according to his prepared testimony.
“To date, five of the seven Department law enforcementprograms,” he said. “In total, close to 4,000 of the Department’s4,900 law enforcement officers and operations personnel currentlyuse IMARS.”
Update: An earlier version of this story stated DOI spent$15 million on IMARS, but that’s just what the department spent oncontractors. The actual cost of IMARS is well over $50 million,according to figures compiled by the House Committee On NaturalResources.
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