Homeland Security:

Agency Plans, Implementation, and Challenges Regarding the National Strategy for Homeland Security

GAO-05-33: Published: Jan 14, 2005. Publicly Released: Feb 14, 2005.

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The National Strategy for Homeland Security sets forth a plan to improve homeland security through the cooperation of federal, state, local, and private sector organizations on an array of functions. These functions are organized into the six distinct "critical mission areas" of (1) intelligence and warning, (2) border and transportation security, (3) domestic counterterrorism, (4) protecting critical infrastructures and key assets, (5) defending against catastrophic threats, and (6) emergency preparedness and response. Within each of these mission areas, the strategy identifies "major initiatives" to be addressed. In all, the strategy cites 43 initiatives across the six mission areas. GAO reviewed the strategy's implementation to (1) determine whether its initiatives are being addressed by key departments' strategic planning and implementation activities, whether the initiatives have lead agencies identified for their implementation, and whether the initiatives were being implemented in fiscal year 2004 by such agencies and (2) identify ongoing homeland security challenges that have been reflected in GAO products since September 11, 2001, by both mission area and issues that cut across mission areas.

Key federal departments--Defense (DOD), Energy (DOE), Health and Human Services (HHS), Homeland Security (DHS), Justice (DOJ), and State--have addressed the strategy's 43 initiatives to some extent in their strategic planning and implementation activities. All 43 of the initiatives were included in some of the planning or implementation activities of at least one of these six departments. Most of the initiatives (42 of the 43) also had departments identified as the lead agencies for their implementation, which helps to ensure accountability for implementation. However, many of these 42 initiatives had multiple lead agencies, indicating that interagency coordination of roles and activities will be important, particularly on those initiatives involving domestic counterterrorism and critical infrastructure protection. All of the initiatives were being implemented in fiscal year 2004 by at least one department. While GAO determined that implementation was occurring, it did not assess the status or quality of the various departments' implementation of the initiatives. While departments have incorporated these initiatives into their planning and implementation activity, the United States faces significant challenges in fully implementing the strategy in a coordinated and integrated manner. Some of the most difficult challenges being confronted are those that cut across the various critical mission areas, such as balancing homeland security funding needs with other national requirements, improving risk management methods for resource allocation and investments, developing adequate homeland security performance measures, developing a national enterprise architecture for homeland security, and clarifying the roles and responsibilities among the levels of government and the private sector. GAO has also identified a large diversity of other challenges in each of the six critical mission areas since September 11.

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