Major Management Challenges at the Department of Justice
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has made some progress in relation to one key management challenge and program risk and no measured progress in two others. Specifically, challenges remain in efforts to evaluate the impact of programs that support state and local crime reduction efforts and financial management issues. The fourth key management challenge, related to enforcement of immigration laws and service improvements, involves programs that were moved to the Department of Homeland Security in March 2003. The programs are included in the discussion of Department of Homeland Security challenges.
Some areas of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's ( FBI) transformation efforts are highly commendable. Commitment of top leadership, development of both strategic and human capital plans, and the creation of the Office of Intelligence are all positive steps in transforming the agency to prevent terrorism. However, in order to pursue all potential terrorism-related leads, the FBI still has to temporarily reassign staff from traditional crime areas, such as drugs, to handle the workload. Further, hiring staff with special skills in some areas has lagged behind agency goals. Finally, the FBI faces massive challenges in its efforts to leverage information technology (IT) to support its transformation goals. Recent actions indicated an understanding of what needs to be done, but it will require a substantial and sustained commitment to correct longstanding weaknesses in the FBI's institutional approach to managing IT. In 2003, GAO made recommendations calling for development of both strategic and human capital plans, which have since been subsequently developed, and an enterprise architecture (or agencywide blueprint) to guide and constrain IT investments. GAO also made a number of recommendations in 2004 to develop and implement integrated IT systems modernization plans and effective policies and procedures for acquiring and investing IT systems, as well as for consolidating responsibility and authority for management of all IT resources across the bureau in the Chief Information Officer. Until these recommendations have been implemented, GAO concluded that IT projects are at risk of not delivering promised system capabilities and benefits, on time and within budget.
Efforts to evaluate the impact of programs that support state and local crime reduction efforts are problematic. While most, but not all, of the impact evaluations GAO recently reviewed began with sufficiently sound designs, serious implementation issues hampered the successful completion of many evaluations. Without solid impact results, DOJ management is left with limited information for management decisions. In relation to the Weed and Seed program that is intended to prevent violent crimes in targeted neighborhoods, DOJ has been slow to take action to fully implement management improvements that GAO first recommended in 1999. Specifically, GAO recommended additional steps to ensure appropriate documentation of program monitoring activities, assessments of local program sustainability, and development of performance measures. In relation to impact evaluations, GAO has recommended both an assessment of ongoing evaluations to ensure their successful completion, and that steps be taken to require more detail in evaluation proposals and monitoring activities that would help ensure successful evaluation implementation.
The results of DOJ's fiscal year 2004 financial statement audit indicate serious financial management issues , particularly at one of Justice's significant components, the Office of Justice Programs (OJP). DOJ received a disclaimer of opinion on its fiscal year 2004 departmentwide financial statements, primarily because OJP's auditors could not perform the necessary testing to form an opinion in the required time frame because they were unable to rely on OJP's financial and information technology controls. Issues raised during the fiscal year 2004 audit of OJP caused the auditors to withdraw the prior year's unqualified opinions on OJP and the Justice department-wide fiscal year 2003 financial statements and reissue disclaimers of opinion of those statements. The auditors also found significant issues with OJP's overall control environment, grant accounting and monitoring, documentation and support for journal entries, as well as, DOJ's overall financial reporting and accounting controls.
Information Technology: Foundational Steps Being Taken to Make Needed FBI Systems Modernization Improvements. GAO-04-842 . Washington, D.C.: September 10, 2004.
FBI Transformation: Data Inconclusive on Effects of Shift to Counterterrorism-Related Priorities on Traditional Crime Enforcement . GAO-04-1036 . Washington, D.C.: August 31, 2004.
FBI Transformation: Human Capital Changes May Assist the FBI in Its Commitment to Address Its Top Priorities. GAO-04-817T . Washington, D.C.: June 3, 2004.
FBI Transformation: FBI Continues to Make Progress in Its Efforts to Transform and Address Priorities. GAO-04-578T . Washington, D.C.: March 23, 2004.
Information Technology: FBI Needs an Enterprise Architecture to Guide Its Modernization Activities. GAO-03-959 . Washington, D.C.: September 25, 2003.
FBI Reorganization: Progress Made in Efforts to Transform, but Major Challenges Continue. GAO-03-759T . Washington, D.C.: June 18, 2003.
State and Local Crime Reduction Efforts
Grants Management: Despite Efforts to Improve Weed and Seed Program Management, Challenges Remain. GA)-04-245. Washington, D.C.: March 24, 2004.
National Criminal History Improvement Program: Federal Grants Have Contributed to Progress. GAO-04-364 . Washington, D.C.: February 27, 2004.
Justice Outcome Evaluations: Design and Implementation of Studies Require More NIJ Attention. GAO-03-1091 . Washington, D.C.: September 24, 2003.
Financial Management Issues
U.S. Department of Justice: Fiscal Year 2004 Performance and Accountability Report . Washington, D.C.: November 2004.