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Policy

Setback for DHS radiation monitoring

October 23, 2006 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 84, ISSUE 43

Devices under development by contractors selected to detect radioactive materials at U.S. ports of entry by the Department of Homeland Security are inadequate, the Government Accountability Office said in an Oct. 17 letter to Congress (GAO-07-133R). Last July, DHS announced it had awarded $1.2 billion over five years to three vendors for development and purchase of new portal radiation monitors. DHS had intended to acquire the first 104 new monitors next year, but Congress put a hold on that plan until DHS can certify that these monitors will work as intended. GAO finds, however, that DHS's cost-benefit analysis for the decision to buy the monitors was inadequate and had relied on assumptions about anticipated performance. GAO challenges DHS cost figures and says DHS's analysis focused too strongly on possible delays and the need to reduce screening time at border checkpoints. DHS stands behind its cost-benefit analysis, however, and believes the new radiation detection devices are a sound investment, GAO says.

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