ANSER | Making Sound Acquisition Decisions
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Making Sound Acquisition Decisions

Making Sound Acquisition Decisions

Client: Department of Homeland Security, Science and Technology Directorate

Mission Area: Counterterrorism, Borders, and Immigration

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is under intense pressure to make cost-effective choices and to justify its acquisition decisions. This is not an easy task. The department must acquire complicated systems that operate in complex environments and perform tasks for which there are few meaningful performance measures. Nonetheless, the decision to acquire one solution over another must be backed by rigorous analysis and withstand considerable scrutiny. Analysis of alternatives (AoA) and the closely related alternatives analysis are important elements of a defensible acquisition process.

The Homeland Security Studies and Analysis Institute (HSSAI), including its Operations Analysis Division, has focused heavily on performing acquisition analyses for DHS over the past three years.

  • The institute directly informed the DHS Secretary’s decision to cancel the SBInet program in January 2011.
  • The division also performed three distinct analyses in 2011 and 2012 that helped the DHS Domestic Nuclear Detection Office respond to congressional pressure and refocus acquisition efforts for screening cargo entering our country to determine whether or not the cargo contains nuclear material.
  • Additional analyses are in progress.

Based on these and related efforts, the Operations Analysis Division prepared a nonprescriptive, quick-reference publication that summarizes the purpose of AoAs, highlights important considerations for DHS in structuring these analyses, and lists key guidance documents and other relevant information resources. It is intended to complement DHS-specific guidance describing its acquisition process requirements and other sources such as the Air Force Office of Aerospace Studies Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) Handbook: A Practical Guide to Analyses of Alternatives.[1]

HSSAI has already seen considerable interest in the document from DHS operating components and headquarters elements. For that reason, the Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) Methodologies: Considerations for DHS Acquisition Analysis was approved for public release and is now available on the Analytic Services Inc. and HSSAI public websites.

The potential client base interested in such analyses is enormous. It includes most operating components within DHS, the Defense Department, and headquarters elements involved in planning, programming, and budgeting processes. Moreover, this project illustrates Analytic Services’ expertise in Decision Analytics a differentiating capability that includes efforts to evaluate progress toward mission objectives, choose among competing material and nonmaterial solutions, and evaluate costs, benefits, and risks. The general approach and techniques applied in AoAs and alternatives analyses can support a wide range of decisions.

[1] Office of Aerospace Studies, Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) Handbook: A Practical Guide to Analyses of Alternatives (Kirtland AFB, NM: Air Force Materiel Command, July 2010).

ANSER Projects, Counterterrorism, Borders, and Immigration