Democrats give DHS poor grades for performance

The Homeland Security Department scored a D grade for emergency preparedness, critical infrastructure protection, redress for errors on the terrorist watch list and overall procurement and contracting, according to the 2006 annual report card issued by Democratic members of the House Homeland Security Committee.

The department received C's for port, aviation and transportation security, border security, chemical plant protection, information-sharing, science and technology, and cybersecurity. The highest grades were B-minuses for the Safecom interoperability program and for privacy protection.

"In the past three years, the department's evolution has been a troubled one," Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the senior Democrat on the committee, said in a news release.

"While, thankfully, the department has not yet been tested by another terrorist attack, its performance fell well below expectations in the face of Mother Nature and Hurricane Katrina last year," he wrote.

The Democratic report criticizes several IT initiatives at DHS, including the Secure Border Initiative, the IT-based surveillance system and network to be built along the U.S. borders.

"Concerns ? remain that the department may be moving forward with SBInet without first completing proper vulnerability assessments of land border crossings and ports of entry to determine the most porous areas of greatest risk to our national security," the report said.

Department officials were not immediately available to respond.

The report also said DHS is promising People Access Security System smart cards and readers for border crossings, but has not yet provided financial support for the initiative.

The department also falls short on information-sharing, according to congressional Democrats. "Cultural differences between the intelligence and law enforcement communities continue to hinder effective information-sharing," the report said. It recommends, among other things, that the department develop an entity to represent state, local and tribal law enforcement officers within the department's intelligence analysis shop.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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