Key Issues > Strengthening DHS Management Functions
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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.

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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.
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  • portrait of Rebecca Gambler
    • Rebecca Gambler
    • Director, Homeland Security and Justice Issues
    • 202-512-8887