Department of Homeland Security:

Continued Progress Made Improving and Integrating Management Areas, but More Work Remains

GAO-12-1041T: Published: Sep 20, 2012. Publicly Released: Sep 20, 2012.

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David C. Maurer
(202) 512-9627
maurerd@gao.gov

 

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What GAO Found

Since we designated the implementation and transformation of DHS as high risk in 2003, DHS has made progress addressing management challenges and senior department officials have demonstrated commitment and top leadership support for addressing the department's management challenges. However, the department has significant work ahead to achieve positive outcomes in resolving high-risk issues. For example, DHS faces challenges in modernizing its financial systems, implementing acquisition management controls, and improving employee satisfaction survey results, among other things. As DHS continues to mature as an organization, it will be important for the department to continue to strengthen its management functions, since the effectiveness of these functions affects its ability to fulfill its homeland security and other missions.

Why GAO Did This Study

This testimony discusses the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) efforts to strengthen and integrate its management functions. DHS now has more than 200,000 employees and an annual budget of almost $60 billion, and its transformation is critical to achieving its homeland security and other missions. Since 2003, GAO has designated the implementation and transformation of DHS as high risk because DHS had to combine 22 agencies--several with major management challenges--into one department, and failure to effectively address DHS's management and mission risks could have serious consequences for our national and economic security. This high-risk area includes challenges in strengthening DHS's management functions--financial management, acquisition management, human capital, and information technology (IT)--the effect of those challenges on DHS's mission implementation, and challenges in integrating management functions within and across the department and its components. In November 2000, we published our criteria for removing areas from the high-risk list. This high-risk area includes challenges in strengthening DHS's management functions--financial management, acquisition management, human capital, and information technology (IT)--the effect of those challenges on DHS's mission implementation, and challenges in integrating management functions within and across the department and its components. Specifically, agencies must have (1) a demonstrated strong commitment and top leadership support to address the risks; (2) the capacity (that is, the people and other resources) to resolve the risks; (3) a corrective action plan that identifies the root causes, identifies effective solutions, and provides for substantially completing corrective measures in the near term, including but not limited to steps necessary to implement solutions we recommended; (4) a program instituted to monitor and independently validate the effectiveness and sustainability of corrective measures; and (5) the ability to demonstrate progress in implementing corrective measures. On the basis of our prior work, in a September 2010 letter to DHS, we identified, and DHS agreed to achieve, 31 actions and outcomes that are critical to addressing the challenges within the department's management areas and in integrating those functions across the department to address the high-risk designation. These key actions and outcomes include, among others, obtaining and then sustaining unqualified audit opinions for at least 2 consecutive years on the departmentwide financial statements; validating required acquisition documents in accordance with a department-approved, knowledge-based acquisition process; and demonstrating measurable progress in implementing its IT human capital plan and accomplishing defined outcomes. In January 2011, DHS issued its initial Integrated Strategy for High Risk Management, which included key management initiatives (e.g., financial management controls, IT program governance, and procurement staffing model) to address challenges and the outcomes we identified for each management area. DHS provided updates of its progress in implementing these initiatives in later versions of the strategy--June 2011, December 2011, and June 2012. Achieving and sustaining progress in these management areas would demonstrate the department's ability and ongoing commitment to addressing our five criteria for removing issues from the high-risk list. As requested, this testimony will discuss our observations, based on prior and ongoing work, on DHS's progress in achieving outcomes critical to addressing its high-risk designation for the implementation and transformation of the department.

For information, please contact David C. Maurer at (202) 512-9627 or maurerd@gao.gov.

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