Department of Homeland Security:

A Comprehensive and Sustained Approach Needed to Achieve Management Integration

GAO-05-139: Published: Mar 16, 2005. Publicly Released: Apr 13, 2005.

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The creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) represents one of the largest reorganizations of government agencies and operations in recent history. Significant management challenges exist for DHS as it merges the multiple management systems and processes from its 22 originating agencies in functional areas such as human capital and information technology. GAO was asked to identify opportunities for DHS to improve its management integration.

GAO found that while DHS has made some progress in its management integration efforts, it has the opportunity to better leverage this progress by implementing a comprehensive and sustained approach to its overall integration efforts. GAO assessed DHS's integration efforts to date against three of nine key practices consistently found to be at the center of successful mergers and transformations: setting implementation goals and a time line to build momentum and show progress, dedicating an implementation team to manage the transformation, and ensuring top leadership drives it. While there are other practices critical to successful mergers and transformations--including using the performance management system to define responsibility and assure accountability for change--GAO selected these three key practices because they are significant to building the infrastructure needed for DHS at this early juncture in its management integration efforts. Establishing implementation goals and a time line is critical to ensuring success and could be contained in an overall integration plan for a merger or transformation. DHS has issued guidance and plans to assist its integration efforts, on a function-by-function basis (information technology and human capital, for example); but it does not have a comprehensive strategy, with overall goals and a time line, to guide the management integration departmentwide. GAO's research shows that it is important to dedicate a strong and stable implementation team for the day-to-day management of the transformation. DHS has established a Business Transformation Office (BTO), reporting to the Under Secretary for Management, to help monitor and look for interdependencies among the individual functional integration efforts. However, the role of the BTO could be strengthened so that it has the requisite responsibility and authority to help the Under Secretary set priorities and make strategic decisions for the integration, as well as implement the integration strategy. The current responsibilities of the Under Secretary contain some of the characteristics of a COO/CMO. GAO has reported that such a position could help elevate, integrate, and institutionalize DHS's management initiatives. Recent DHS actions, such as management directives clarifying roles for the integration, can provide the Under Secretary additional support. However, it is still too early to tell whether the Under Secretary will have sufficient authority to direct, and make trade-off decisions for the integration, and institutionalize it departmentwide. The Congress should continue to monitor whether it needs to provide additional leadership authorities to the Under Secretary, or create a new position that more fully captures the roles and responsibilities of a COO/CMO.

Status Legend:

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  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Matters for Congressional Consideration

    Matter: To help ensure accontability and sustainability for DHS's management integration over the long term, Congress may wish to continue to monitor the progress of DHS's management integration, for example, by requiring the department to periodically report on the status of its efforts, especially to determine whether it has (1) implemented a departmentwide integration management strategy and (2) provided the BTO with sufficient authority to serve as a dedicated implementation team to help set priorities and make strategic decisions to drive integration across all functions.

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: We consider this matter for Congressional consideration to be implemented because the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 required that the DHS Undersecretary for Management serve as the Chief Management Officer and principal advisor to the Secretary of DHS on matters related to the management integration and transformation of the department. In addition, the act required the Undersecretary for Management to develop a management integration strategy for the department.

    Matter: To help ensure accontability and sustainability for DHS's management integration over the long term, Congress may wish to continue to monitor whether the Under Secretary for Management has the authority to elevate attention on management issues and transformational change, integrate various key management and transformation efforts, and institutionalize accountability for addressing these management issues and leading this change. If not, the Congress could reassess whether it needs to statutorily adjust existing positions at DHS, or create a new COO/CMO position, with provisions for a term limit and performance agreement, that has the necessary responsibilities and authorities to more effectively drive the integration.

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Senator Voinovich proposed a bill to create a Deputy Secretary for Management/Chief Management Official at DHS. This version has more co-sponsors than a similar bill introduced in the last session of Congress and includes Senators Akaka, Levin and McCaskill. As of March 20, 2007, the Senate has passed S. 4, Title XVI: Miscellaneous Provisions - (Sec. 1601) Amends HSA to establish a Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security for Management to serve as the Chief Management Officer and principal advisor to the Secretary on matters related to management of DHS. Given that Congress has considered establishing the position of Deputy Secretary to serve as CMO, we conclude that the matter has been implemented.

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: In order to build the management infrastructure needed to help support the department's integration and transformation, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Under Secretary for Management, working with others, to designate the planned BTO within DHS's Management Directorate as the dedicated implementation team for the department's management integration and provide it with the requisite authority and responsibility to help set priorities and make strategic decisions to drive the integration across all functions. The BTO would also be responsible for helping to develop and implement the overarching management integration strategy.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Management

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DHS has stated that the Under Secretary for Management has authority in the Homeland Security Act of 2002 for transition and reorganization processes throughout the Department of Homeland Security. A DHS official told us that the Business Transformation Office was eliminated, which was the dedicated team put in place to manage management integration agencywide. In the USM's former Chief of Staff, May 2, 2008 e-mail to GAO, he stated that "It was determined in the legislation for FY 2007 that while the integration that BTO sought to provide was valued, such integration could be coordinated directly out of the Immediate Office of the USM and therefore an independent office was not needed. Although DHS requested $2.012M for FY 07, zero dollars was appropriated. Presently and for the foreseeable future, the Immediate Office of the Under Secretary for Management dedicates resources and supports management integration efforts across the Department through the management of the Integrated Strategy for High Risk Management, the DHS Management Council, and the Internal Controls Program Management Office.

    Recommendation: In order to build the management infrastructure needed to help support the department's integration and transformation, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Under Secretary for Management, working with others, to develop an overarching management integration strategy for the department. Such a strategy would, among other things, (1) look across the initiatives within each of the management functional units; (2) clearly identify the critical links that must occur among these initiatives; (3) identify tradeoffs and set priorities; (4) set implementation goals and a time line to monitor the progress of these initiatives to ensure the necessary links occur when needed; and (5) identify potential efficiencies, and ensure that they are achieved. The department should also use this strategy to clearly communicate a consistent set of goals and the progress achieved internally to all its employees, and externally to key stakeholders, such as the Congress.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Management

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In January 2011, DHS provided us with its Integrated Strategy for High Risk Management, which provides an overview of DHS's plans to address the high-risk designation, including management integration by, for example, enhancing acquisition management efforts across the department. DHS updated this strategy in June 2011, December 2011, and June 2012. In the most recent version, DHS addressed the five criteria GAO recommended for an overarching strategy. (1) To look across the initiatives within each of the management functional units, DHS has established 18 initiatives, with at least two in each functional unit, including financial management, human capital management, information technology, procurement management, and acquisition program management. (2) To clearly identify critical links that must occur among these initiatives, DHS created a new chapter on Transformational Initiatives, which DHS identified as cross-cutting, multi-dimensional and whose duration will likely span multiple years. According to DHS, these initiatives provide a framework for managing investments across DHS, strengthen integration and ensure that mission needs drive investment decisions,a central tenet of DHS's integration strategy. (3) To identify tradeoffs and set priorities, DHS has identified 173 ongoing corrective actions, and is changing corrective actions to meet current priorities by eliminating, modifying, or adding corrective actions when necessary. (4) To set implementation goals and a time line to monitor the progress of these initiatives, the June 2012 Strategy establishes corrective action plans for all 18 initiatives. These corrective action plans outline the goals for each initiative, describe how they will be accomplished, and generally establish near term timeframes. (5) Finally, to identify potential efficiencies, and ensure that they are achieved, DHS has through its Efficiency Review and component initiatives, identified more than $1 billion in cost avoidances and implemented 30 efficiency initiatives across the agency.

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