Combating Terrorism:

Funding Data Reported to Congress Should Be Improved

GAO-03-170: Published: Nov 26, 2002. Publicly Released: Nov 26, 2002.

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Congress responded to the attacks of September 11, 2001, with dramatic funding increases to combat terrorism. Even before these attacks, Congress was concerned about increased funding in this area, and based on findings from a 1997 GAO report, mandated that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) report annually on funding to combat terrorism. In this review, GAO was asked to analyze such funding trends, describe difficulties in coordinating combating terrorism budgets, assess data reported to Congress, and describe the executive branch's efforts to maximize the effective use of combating terrorism funds. The review relied on OMB's definition of "combating terrorism" to include both homeland security and overseas combating terrorism missions.

GAO calculated, on the basis of OMB's data, that there was a 276-percent total increase in funds designated to combat terrorism during fiscal years 2001 and 2002 (as reported in OMB's annual reports to Congress for 2001 and 2002, respectively). This increase includes a 106-percent increase from the post-September 11 redefinition of combating terrorism to include homeland security activities such as aviation and transportation security, and a 170-percent increase due to funding increases. Difficulties in coordinating budgets to combat terrorism stem from the variety of missions involved and the fact that activities related to combating terrorism are often funded through budget accounts that also provide funding for other activities. Various approaches have been used to address these challenges. The process for preparing the budget for fiscal year 2003 was characterized by collaboration between OMB and the Office of Homeland Security that resulted in the budget priorities included in the President's budget for fiscal 2003. Crosscutting funding data reported to Congress, however, do not adequately support congressional oversight. An OMB annual report summarizing funding for combating terrorism has had limited utility for decision makers because it was issued late in the congressional decision-making process and did not include data on obligations or on duplication in programs for combating terrorism. OMB plans to analyze areas of duplication as part of the preparation of the budget request for fiscal year 2004. If completed, this analysis will enable OMB to comply with the legislative mandate to include such an analysis in its annual report. While the executive branch has established some national strategies important to coordinating the effective use of funds for combating terrorism, it faces challenges in measuring its progress. Although the strategies provide an important first step, they provide neither clearly defined federal and national performance goals and measures for assessing progress, nor set clear funding priorities. Lacking such measures and priorities, it is also difficult to assess whether funding increases are being allocated to the highest-priority programs.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To help maximize the effective use of funds for combating terrorism, OMB, in conjunction with OHS and NSC, should direct relevant Departments to develop or enhance performance objectives and measures for combating terrorism in alignment with performance measures in national strategies.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: National Security Council

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Partially implemented. OMB has placed a higher priority on enhancing program evaluation and developing performance measures. Specifically, OMB developed the Program Assessment and Rating Tool, which was used to evaluate a cross section of federal programs, and their scores were published in the FY 2004 President's Budget--including a subset of homeland security and terrorism related programs.

    Recommendation: To help maximize the effective use of funds for combating terrorism, the Office of Homeland Security (OHS) and National Security Council (NSC) should include national-level, as well as federal governmentwide, performance measures as a supplement to existing strategies and in future revisions to strategies for homeland security and the combating of terrorism overseas.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: National Security Council

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The National Strategy for Combating Terrorism issued in September 2006 includes priorities for action and outlines how the government hopes to accomplish the tasks; however, it does not provide any concrete performance measures.

    Recommendation: To help maximize the effective use of funds for combating terrorism, the Office of Homeland Security (OHS) and National Security Council (NSC) should include national-level, as well as federal governmentwide, performance measures as a supplement to existing strategies and in future revisions to strategies for homeland security and the combating of terrorism overseas.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Homeland Security

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The National Strategy for Combating Terrorism issued in September 2006 includes priorities for action and outlines how the government hopes to accomplish the tasks; however, it does not provide any concrete performance measures.

    Recommendation: To improve the usefulness of OMB's Annual Report to Congress on Combating Terrorism, OMB should include, as required by Congress, an analysis of areas where overlap in programs could result in unnecessary duplication of effort.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Section 889 of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 repealed OMB's prior reporting requirements, including the duplication analysis.

    Recommendation: To improve the usefulness of OMB's Annual Report to Congress on Combating Terrorism, OMB should include obligations as reported in the MAX database.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: GAO-06-170 reported that OMB staff continue to cite the effort required to produce such data. While OMB staff acknowledged that OMB examiners use obligation data in assessing the appropriateness of agency budget requests overall, they have felt that budget authority data provide the most insight into combating terrorism programs and facilitate follow up on areas of concern. Additionally, the Analytic Perspectives of the FY 08 President's Budget does not report obligation information, only budget authority data. OMB instituted a new process in its February 2003 submission of the FY 2004 President's Budget that it believes is consistent with GAO's recommendation. Specifically, OMB asked agencies to enter budget authority and outlays for homeland security and combating terrorism in the database used to prepare the President's Budget. As a result, for the first time, such information was available to Congress in February with the President's budget.

    Recommendation: To improve the usefulness of OMB's Annual Report to Congress on Combating Terrorism, OMB should publish the report by the required March 1 deadline to provide information for congressional budget deliberations.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Section 889 of the Homeland Security Act requires OMB report on funding data for homeland security activities in the President's budget, which is due the first Monday in February. Therefore, the Homeland Security Act of 2002 actually accelerated the timeline for reporting this data. Not implemented. As of July 31, 2003, the Annual Report had not been issued. According to OMB, the majority of agency appropriations were not completed until late February, making it impractical to get the report out on time. However, more data was provided to Congress at an earlier date. OMB asked agencies to enter budget authority and outlays for homeland security and combating terrorism in the database used to prepare the President's Budget. As a result, for the first time, such information was available to Congress in February with the President's budget.

    Recommendation: To help Congress obtain timely information on spending that supports the President's annual budget request for combating terrorism, OMB should require agencies to provide information on obligations in its MAX database--the database used by OMB to produce the President's annual budget request.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: According to 2007 OMB guidance, OMB is tracking obligations for domestic homeland security spending, but is not tracking obligations for combating terrorism overseas. OMB has not tracked obligations data in the MAX database and states that agencies' ability to track such information is limited. Nevertheless, OMB instituted a new process in its February 2003 submission of the FY 2004 President's Budget that it believes is consistent with GAO's recommendation. Specifically, OMB asked agencies to enter budget authority and outlays for homeland security and combating terrorism in the database used to prepare the President's Budget. As a result, for the first time, such information was available to Congress in February with the President's budget.

    Recommendation: To help maximize the effective use of funds for combating terrorism, OMB, in conjunction with OHS and NSC, should include performance measures for combating terrorism in the governmentwide plan that OMB is required to produce annually.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In GAO-04-38, OMB stated that the President's Budget represents the executive branch's governmentwide performance plan. However, GAO feels that the agency-by-agency focus of the budget does not provide an integrated perspective of government performance. There are no indications that OMB plans to develop federal or national-level performance measures related to combating terrorism or homeland security.

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