DHS management deficiencies persist: GAO

Five years after opening its doors, the Homeland Security Department has had some success in its mission but has been slow into attaining efficient management, according to testimony from Comptroller General David Walker yesterday.

"In general, DHS has made more progress in its mission areas than in its management areas," Walker told the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security.

The department, created by Congress in 2002, began operating in March 2003 as a conglomeration of 22 federal agencies. The Government Accountability Office designated the implementation and transformation of DHS as high-risk areas because of the complexity of integrating so many agencies.

In his 29-page testimony, Walker reviewed progress on various fronts. Key issues facing DHS are agency transformation, strategic planning and results management, risk management, information sharing, partnerships and coordination, and accountability and transparency.

In management, Walker said, the department's successes are strategic sourcing, institutionalizing information technology management controls, and preparing plans for internal control weaknesses, human capital and asset management.

But DHS officials still face a number of major challenges, including:
  • Providing appropriate oversight for contractors;
  • Improving financial management controls and correcting internal control weaknesses;
  • Implementing a performance-based human capital management system;
  • Refining and implementing controls for information technology management;
  • Improving the regulation of commercial trade while ensuring protection against the entry of illegal goods and dangerous visitors at U.S. ports of entry;
  • Improving enforcement of immigration laws, including work site immigration laws, and the provision of immigration services;
  • Integrating fully risk-based decision-making into some transportation security programs; and
  • Coordinating with states and first responders as they train and practice under a revised National Response Framework.

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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