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Progress Made andWork Remaining inImplementingHomeland SecurityMissions 10 Yearsafter 9/11 GAO Report

Progress Made andWork Remaining inImplementingHomeland SecurityMissions 10 Yearsafter 9/11 GAO Report

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United States Government Accountability Office
GAO
Report to Congressional Requesters
 
DEPARTMENT OFHOMELANDSECURITYProgress Made andWork Remaining inImplementingHomeland SecurityMissions 10 Yearsafter 9/11
September 2011
GAO-11-881
 
 
United States Government Accountability Office
Highlights of GAO-11-881, a report tocongressional requesters
September 2011
DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITYProgress Made and Work Remaining inImplementing Homeland Security Missions 10Years after 9/11
 What GAO Found
Since it began operations in 2003, DHS has implemented key homeland securityoperations and achieved important goals and milestones in many areas to createand strengthen a foundation to reach its potential. As it continues to mature,however, more work remains for DHS to address gaps and weaknesses in itscurrent operational and implementation efforts, and to strengthen the efficiencyand effectiveness of those efforts to achieve its full potential. DHS’saccomplishments include developing strategic and operational plans; deployingworkforces; and establishing new, or expanding existing, offices and programs.For example, DHS
issued plans to guide its efforts, such as the Quadrennial Homeland SecurityReview, which provides a framework for homeland security, and the
National Response Framework 
, which outlines disaster response guiding principles;
successfully hired, trained, and deployed workforces, such as a federalscreening workforce to assume security screening responsibilities at airportsnationwide; and
created new programs and offices to implement its homeland securityresponsibilities, such as establishing the U.S. Computer EmergencyReadiness Team to help coordinate efforts to address cybersecurity threats.Such accomplishments are noteworthy given that DHS has had to work totransform itself into a fully functioning department while implementing itsmissions—a difficult undertaking that can take years to achieve. While DHS hasmade progress, its transformation remains high risk due to its managementchallenges. Examples of progress made and work remaining include:
Border security.
DHS implemented the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant StatusIndicator Technology program to verify the identities of foreign visitors enteringand exiting the country by processing biometric and biographic information.However, DHS has not yet determined how to implement a biometric exitcapability and has taken action to address a small portion of the estimatedoverstay population in the United States (individuals who legally entered thecountry but then overstayed their authorized periods of admission).
 
DHS alsodeployed infrastructure to secure the border between ports of entry, includingmore than 600 miles of fencing. However, DHS experienced schedule delaysand performance problems with the Secure Border Initiative Network, which ledto the cancellation of this information technology program.
Aviation security.
DHS developed and implemented Secure Flight, a programfor screening airline passengers against terrorist watchlist records. DHS alsodeveloped new programs and technologies to screen passengers, checkedbaggage, and air cargo. However, DHS does not yet have a plan for deployingchecked baggage screening technologies to meet recently enhanced explosivedetection requirements, a mechanism to verify the accuracy of data to helpensure that air cargo screening is being conducted at reported levels, or approved technology to screen cargo once it is loaded onto a pallet or container.
Emergency preparedness and response.
DHS issued the NationalPreparedness Guidelines that describe a national framework for capabilities-
ViewGAO-11-881or key components.For more information, contact Cathleen A.Berrick at (202) 512-3404 or berrickc@gao.gov.
 Why GAO Did This Study
The events of September 11, 2001, ledto profound changes in governmentpolicies and structures to confronthomeland security threats. Mostnotably, the Department of HomelandSecurity (DHS) began operations in2003 with key missions that includedpreventing terrorist attacks fromoccurring in the United States, andminimizing the damages from anyattacks that may occur. DHS is nowthe third-largest federal department,with more than 200,000 employeesand an annual budget of more than$50 billion. Since 2003, GAO hasissued over 1,000 products on DHS’soperations in such areas as border andtransportation security and emergencymanagement, among others. Asrequested, this report addressesDHS’s progress in implementing itshomeland security missions since itbegan operations, work remaining, andissues affecting implementation efforts.This report is based on GAO’s pastand ongoing work, supplemented withDHS Office of Inspector Generalreports, with an emphasis on reportsissued since 2008. GAO also analyzedinformation provided by DHS in Julyand August 2011 on recent actionstaken in response to prior work.
 What GAO Recommends
While this report contains no newrecommendations, GAO previouslymade about 1,500 recommendations toDHS. The department addressedabout half of them, has efforts under way to address others, and has takenadditional action to strengthen itsoperations. In commenting on thisreport, DHS stated that the report didnot address all of DHS’s activities. Thisreport is based on prior work, whichGAO reflects throughout the report.
 
Highlights of GAO-11-881 (
Continued
)United States Government Accountability Office
based preparedness, and a Target Capabilities List to provide a national-levelgeneric model of capabilities defining all-hazards preparedness. DHS is alsofinalizing a National Disaster Recovery Framework, and awards preparednessgrants based on a reasonable risk methodology. However, DHS needs tostrengthen its efforts to assess capabilities for all-hazards preparedness, anddevelop a long-term recovery structure to better align timing and involvementwith state and local governments’ capacity. DHS should also improve the efficacyof the grant application process by mitigating duplication or redundancy withinthe various preparedness grant programs.
Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) threats.
DHSassessed risks posed by CBRN threats and deployed capabilities to detectCBRN threats. However, DHS should work to improve its coordination of CBRNrisk assessments, and identify monitoring mechanisms for determining progressmade in implementing the global nuclear detection strategy.GAO’s work identified three themes at the foundation of DHS’s challenges.
Leading and coordinating the homeland security enterprise.
DHS has madeimportant strides in providing leadership and coordinating efforts among itsstakeholders. However, DHS needs to take additional action to forge effectivepartnerships and strengthen the sharing and utilization of information, which hasaffected its ability to effectively satisfy its missions. For example, theexpectations of private sector stakeholders have not been met by DHS and itsfederal partners in areas related to sharing information about cyber-based threatsto critical infrastructure. In 2005, GAO designated information sharing for homeland security as high risk because the federal government faced challengesin analyzing and sharing information in a timely, accurate, and useful way.
Implementing and integrating management functions for results.
DHS hasenhanced its management functions, and has plans in place to further strengthenthe management of the department for results. However, DHS has not alwayseffectively executed or integrated these functions. In 2003, GAO designated thetransformation of DHS as high risk because DHS had to transform 22 agenciesinto one department. DHS has demonstrated strong leadership commitment andbegun to implement a strategy to address its management challenges. However,these challenges have contributed to schedule delays, cost increases, andperformance problems in a number of programs aimed at delivering importantmission capabilities, such as a system to detect certain nuclear materials invehicles and containers at ports. DHS also faced difficulties in deploying sometechnologies that meet defined requirements. Further, DHS does not yet haveenough skilled personnel in various areas, such as acquisition management; andhas not yet developed an integrated financial management system, impacting itsability to have ready access to reliable information for informed decision making.
Strategically managing risks and assessing homeland security efforts.
 Forming a new department while working to implement statutorily mandated anddepartment-initiated programs and responding to evolving threats, was, and is, asignificant challenge facing DHS. Key threats have impacted DHS’s approachesand investments. It is understandable that these threats had to be addressedimmediately as they arose. However, limited strategic and program planning byDHS and limited assessment to inform approaches and investment decisionshave contributed to programs not meeting strategic needs in an efficient manner.Given DHS’s leadership responsibilities in homeland security, it is critical that itsprograms are operating as efficiently and effectively as possible, are sustainable,and continue to mature to address pressing security needs. Eight years after itscreation and 10 years after September 11, 2001, DHS has indeed madesignificant strides in protecting the nation, but has yet to reach its full potential.

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