Key Issues > Strengthening DHS Management Functions
homeland security icon, source: Homeland Security

Strengthening DHS Management Functions

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has made progress in improving and integrating its management areas (acquisitions, financial management, human capital, and information technology), but continues to face considerable challenges that have impacted the department’s ability to satisfy its missions.

  1. Share with Facebook 
  2. Share with Twitter 
  3. Share with LinkedIn 
  4. Share with mail 

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 U.S. national and economic security. DHS has made considerable progress in transforming its original component agencies into a single department. As a result, GAO narrowed the scope of the high-risk area and changed the name from Implementing and Transforming the Department of Homeland Security to Strengthening the Department of Homeland Security Management Functions. However, DHS continues to face challenges that directly affect its ability to meet its management functions. For example:

  • Acquisitions. Key DHS aviation security technology acquisitions—Advanced Imaging Technology and explosive detection systems—did not meet intended requirements and were not appropriately tested and evaluated, among other things; and the department needs to better adhere to its acquisition guidance and GAO best practices for cost and schedule estimation.
  • Human Capital. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) within DHS has faced challenges in addressing workforce planning and training needs for its more than 18,000 employees who are responsible for preparing for, responding to, and mitigating all hazards; and could benefit from documenting long-term and quantifiable mission critical goals to guide the agency’s workforce planning and training efforts.
  • Financial Management. DHS has been unable to obtain an audit opinion on its internal controls over financial reporting due to material weaknesses in internal controls, and much work remains to modernize components’ financial management systems. Without sound controls and systems, DHS faces long-term challenges in obtaining and sustaining an audit opinion on internal controls over financial reporting, and ensuring its financial management systems generate reliable, useful, and timely information for day-to-day decision making.
Looking for our recommendations? Click on any report to find each associated recommendation and its current implementation status.

Economic Development:

Overview of GAO's Past Work on the National Flood Insurance Program
Published: Apr 9, 2014. Publicly Released: May 9, 2014.

Department of Homeland Security:

DHS's Efforts to Improve Employee Morale and Fill Senior Leadership Vacancies
Published: Dec 12, 2013. Publicly Released: Dec 12, 2013.

DHS Financial Management:

Additional Efforts Needed to Resolve Deficiencies in Internal Controls and Financial Management Systems
Published: Sep 30, 2013. Publicly Released: Nov 14, 2013.

DHS Strategic Workforce Planning:

Oversight of Departmentwide Efforts Should Be Strengthened
Published: Dec 3, 2012. Publicly Released: Dec 3, 2012.

Federal Emergency Management Agency:

Workforce Planning and Training Could Be Enhanced by Incorporating Strategic Management Principles
Published: Apr 26, 2012. Publicly Released: Apr 26, 2012.

More Reports

Immigration Detention:

Additional Actions Needed to Strengthen Management and Oversight of Facility Costs and Standards
Published: Oct 10, 2014. Publicly Released: Oct 10, 2014.

Market Research:

Better Documentation Needed to Inform Future Procurements at Selected Agencies
Published: Oct 9, 2014. Publicly Released: Oct 9, 2014.

Inspectors General:

Information Security and Privacy Controls Should Be Enhanced to Address Weaknesses
Published: Sep 18, 2014. Publicly Released: Sep 18, 2014.

Department of Homeland Security:

Actions Needed to Strengthen Management of Research and Development
Published: Sep 9, 2014. Publicly Released: Sep 9, 2014.

Personnel Security Clearances:

Coast Guard Acquisitions:

Better Information on Performance and Funding Needed to Address Shortfalls
Published: Jun 18, 2014. Publicly Released: Jun 18, 2014.

Civilian Intelligence Community:

Additional Actions Needed to Improve Reporting on and Planning for the Use of Contract Personnel
Published: Jun 18, 2014. Publicly Released: Jun 18, 2014.


Observations on the Cancellation of BioWatch Gen-3 and Future Considerations for the Program
Published: Jun 10, 2014. Publicly Released: Jun 10, 2014.

Coast Guard Acquisitions:

Better Information on Performance and Funding Needed to Address Shortfalls
Published: Jun 5, 2014. Publicly Released: Jun 18, 2014.


Department of Homeland Security: Progress Made in Implementation and Transformation of Management Functions, but More Work Remains


TSA's Aviation Security EffortsWednesday, March 17, 2010
Homeland Security 10 Years after 9/11Wednesday, September 7, 2011
  • portrait of David C. Maurer
    • David C. Maurer
    • Director, Homeland Security and Justice Issues
    • 202-512-9627