The Chief Operating Officer Concept and its Potential Use as a Strategy to Improve Management at the Department of Homeland Security
GAO-04-876R: Published: Jun 28, 2004. Publicly Released: Jun 28, 2004.
In a May 18, 2004 letter, the Chairman of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security observed that many management and integration challenges remain at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and to strengthen the departmentwide reforms and transformation underway at DHS the Select Committee is considering options such as the Chief Operating Officer (COO) concept to help address these challenges. This letter describes the roles and responsibilities of an effective COO and presents certain options that could serve to strengthen and streamline management functions in a department as large and diverse as DHS. As agreed, we have summarized our reports on the COO concept, organizational transformation, as well as DHS's management and transformation challenges.
As DHS and other agencies across the federal government embark on large-scale organizational change initiatives in order to address 21st century challenges, there is a compelling need to elevate, integrate, and institutionalize responsibility for key functional management initiatives to help ensure their success. A COO or similar position may effectively provide the continuing, focused attention essential to successfully completing these multiyear transformations. However, the specific implementation of such an approach must be determined within the context of the particular facts, circumstances, challenges, and opportunities of each individual agency. In addition, certain mechanisms can serve to augment the COO position, and thus further strengthen and streamline management functions within an agency. These mechanisms include articulating the COO's role in statute in order to make clear its broad responsibilities, using performance agreements to clarify individual performance expectations, and setting a term appointment for the position to ensure accountability over the long term. Finally, strong and continuing congressional oversight can help determine how best to elevate, integrate, and institutionalize key management and transformation responsibilities in executive agencies.