GAO sees homeland security challenges

Government Accountability Office report: "Agency Plans, Implementation, and Challenges Regarding the National Strategy for Homeland Security"

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Six federal departments are addressing, to some extent, all 43 initiatives spelled out by President Bush in his national blueprint for homeland security. But many initiatives have multiple agencies leading a specific effort, meaning interagency coordination will be important, according to a report released by officials from the Government Accountability Office.

However, GAO officials said they did not evaluate the status or quality of the initiatives that the various departments are implementing.

In addition to the Homeland Security Department, the GAO report identified the Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Justice and State departments as the major federal players in implementing the National Strategy for Homeland Security.

The overall strategy, which was issued in 2002, describes six critical mission areas and 43 initiatives. The six mission areas include intelligence and warning, border and transportation security, domestic counterterrorism, critical infrastructure protection, defending against weapons of mass destruction, and emergency preparedness and response. Since the announcement of the national blueprint, Bush has also issued 12 Homeland Security Presidential Directives (HSPDs) to provide more detail on the mission areas.

According to the GAO report, at least one department was working to implement each of the 43 initiatives in fiscal 2004. Of the 43 initiatives, 33 were being planned or implemented by three or more departments.

Although the national strategy and related HSPDs typically identify a lead agency for a particular initiative, the language varies in precision, the report states.

"In some cases, the documents use clear language to identify which department will lead efforts across the government," according to the report. "In other cases, the lead is more implied than stated. Sometimes, more than one department is identified as a lead agency

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