Department of Homeland Security:

Actions Taken Toward Management Integration, but a Comprehensive Strategy Is Still Needed

GAO-10-131: Published: Nov 20, 2009. Publicly Released: Dec 15, 2009.

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Significant management challenges exist for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as it continues to integrate its varied management processes, policies, and systems in areas such as financial management and information technology. These activities are primarily led by the Under Secretary for Management (USM), department management chiefs, and management chiefs in DHS's seven components. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) was asked to examine: (1) the extent to which DHS has developed a comprehensive strategy for management integration that includes the characteristics recommended in GAO's 2005 report; (2) how DHS is implementing management integration; and (3) the extent to which the USM is holding the department and component management chiefs accountable for implementing management integration through reporting relationships. GAO reviewed DHS plans and interviewed management officials in DHS's headquarters and in all components.

DHS has not yet developed a comprehensive strategy for management integration as required by the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 and with the characteristics GAO recommended in a 2005 report. Although DHS stated in response to the 2005 report that it was developing an integration strategy, it has not yet done so, in part because it has focused on building operations capacity within functional management areas. In the absence of a comprehensive management integration strategy, DHS officials stated that documents such as management directives and strategic plans address aspects of a management integration strategy and can help the department to manage its integration efforts. However, they do not generally include all of the strategy characteristics GAO identified, such as identifying the critical links that must occur among management initiatives and time lines for monitoring the progress of these initiatives. In addition, DHS has increased the number of performance measures for the Management Directorate, but has not yet established measures for assessing management integration across the department, although DHS officials stated that the department intends to do so. Without these measures DHS cannot assess its progress in implementing and achieving management integration. In the absence of a comprehensive strategy, DHS's Management Directorate has implemented management integration through certain initiatives and mechanisms to communicate and consolidate management policies, processes, and systems. The directorate uses councils to communicate information related to the implementation of management initiatives, among other things. The directorate has also established governance boards and processes to manage specific activities. Further, the directorate is in the process of consolidating certain management systems. However, without a documented management integration strategy, it is difficult for DHS, Congress, and other key stakeholders to understand and monitor the critical linkages and prioritization among these various efforts. The USM and department and component management chiefs are held accountable for implementing management integration through reporting relationships at three levels--between the Secretary and the USM, the USM and department chiefs, and the department and component chiefs--in which, among other things, the Secretary of Homeland Security, USM, and department chiefs are required to provide input into performance plans and evaluations. The Deputy Secretary--through delegation from the Secretary--and the USM have provided input into the USM's and department chiefs' plans and evaluations, respectively. Although department chiefs are required by management directives to provide component chiefs with written objectives at the start of the annual performance cycle, in fiscal year 2009 only two out of six department chiefs provided such input to component chiefs. Without ensuring that the management chiefs provide input into component chiefs' performance plans and evaluations as required, the directorate cannot be sure that component chiefs are fully implementing management integration.

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

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To strengthen its management integration efforts, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Under Secretary for Management, working with others, to ensure that department management chiefs provide input into component management chiefs' annual performance evaluations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In its June 2012 Integrated Strategy for High Risk Management, DHS identified actions it is taking to address the outcome related to accountability for management integration. Specifically, one mechanism to support this outcome is for department management chiefs to provide direct and formal input into component management chiefs' annual performance evaluations. In its strategy, DHS reported this outcome to be fully addressed. DHS noted that the DHS management chiefs have provided input into component management's performance appraisals for the past several years. For example, in September 2012 DHS officials told us that DHS's Chief Financial Officer conducts component performance progress reviews at monthly CFO Council meetings where performance against goals is reviewed. Further, in September 2012 the DHS Chief Financial Officer told us that she provides input into component chief annual performance ratings.

    Recommendation: To strengthen its management integration efforts, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Under Secretary for Management, working with others, to ensure that department management chiefs provide written objectives for component management chiefs' performance plans at the beginning of each performance cycle, and that the objectives are representative of determined priorities and milestones for the management functions during that period.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In its June 2012 Integrated Strategy for High Risk Management, DHS identified actions it is taking to address the outcome related to accountability for management integration. Specifically, one mechanism to support this outcome is for department management chiefs to provide written objectives for component management chiefs' performance plans at the beginning of each cycle and having the objectives explicitly reflect priorities and milestones for the management functions during this period. In its strategy, DHS reported this outcome to be fully addressed. For example, for fiscal years 2011 and 2012 the DHS Chief Financial Officer provided annual memos to components on priority performance goals and the DHS Chief Administrative Officer provided several specific objectives to component Chief Administrative Officers that support the Secretary's goal for Management Integration and "One DHS".

    Recommendation: To strengthen its management integration efforts, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Under Secretary for Management, working with others, once a comprehensive management integration strategy is developed, consistent with statute and as we previously recommended, to establish performance measures to assess progress made in achieving departmentwide management integration once a comprehensive management integration strategy is developed, consistent with statute and as GAO previously recommended.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

    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. The most recent version established key measures and rated its progress for all 18 initiatives included in the strategy and the 31 outcomes, including management integration.

    Recommendation: To strengthen its management integration efforts, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Under Secretary for Management, working with others, to ensure that component management chiefs' individual performance plans are reflective of and include linkages to the goals and objectives for the Management Directorate and relevant department management function.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In its June 2012 Integrated Strategy for High Risk Management, DHS identified actions it is taking to address the outcome related to accountability for management integration. Specifically, one mechanism to support this outcome is for component management chiefs' individual performance plans include explicit linkages to the goals and objectives for the DHS Management Directorate and relevant department management function. In its strategy, DHS reported this outcome as fully addressed. DHS reported that objective, evidence-based metrics, based on the strategic goals and priorities of the leadership drive the performance of management chiefs both at the department and component levels. For example, the fiscal year 2012 performance plan for the Transportation Security Administration Chief Information Officer includes objectives that are linked to the Integrated Strategy for High Risk Management?s initiative on information security. The objective of this initiative is to enhance the security of the Department's internal Information Technology (IT) systems and networks by implementing strong IT security controls, periodically verifying and validating implementation of key security controls, and promptly remediating identified security control weaknesses.

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