DHS lacks strategic plan for managing integration, GAO says

Auditors conclude department has been focused on strengthening IT, finances instead

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano gave a year-end speech to employees this week highlighting her goal of unifying DHS, including conducting more efficiency reviews and looking forward to the construction of the new campus at the former St. Elizabeth’s Hospital site in Washington.

“I see one DHS as a strong, efficient and focused department,” Napolitano said in a staff meeting on Dec. 15.

But there is still a lot of work to do in integrating the department’s 22 agencies, seven years after Congress and then-President George W. Bush created the department, according to a report issued the same day by the Government Accountability Office. DHS management has not yet followed through on a longstanding requirement to develop a comprehensive strategy for management integration, according to the new GAO report dated Dec. 15.

The GAO recommended a departmental integration strategy in 2005, and Congress wrote the requirement in law in 2007 in the legislation implementing the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.

Homeland Security management officials have developed strategic plans and directives that address aspects of an integration strategy, but they are not comprehensive and do not identify all the critical links that must occur among initiatives, the GAO said in its new report. In addition, there are no performance measures yet for the integration effort.

“Although DHS stated at that time that it was developing an integration strategy, it has not yet developed a comprehensive strategy for management integration that is consistent with statute and that contains all of the characteristics we identified in 2005,” the GAO concluded.

DHS officials said the management directorate has not done so because it has focused on building up capacity within functional areas, such as financial management and information technology.

The GAO recommended that DHS create a comprehensive strategy for integration, along with benchmarks for measuring progress. In response to the report, DHS officials said they agreed with the advice and have begun implementing it, the report said.

Another recent GAO reported suggested that Homeland Security's efforts to institute a new financial management system were not going so well either. The Transformation and Systems Consolidation program is behind schedule and too reliant on contractors, according to that evaluation.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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