DHS Intelligence Analysis:
Additional Actions Needed to Address Analytic Priorities and Workforce Challenges
GAO-14-397: Published: Jun 4, 2014. Publicly Released: Jun 4, 2014.
What GAO Found
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has established mechanisms—including an intelligence framework and an analytic planning process—to better integrate analysis activities throughout the department, but the mechanisms are not functioning as intended. For example, the framework does not establish strategic departmental intelligence priorities that can be used to inform annual planning decisions, such as what analytic activities to pursue and the level of investment to make, as called for in DHS guidance. According to officials from DHS's Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A), it can be challenging for DHS components to focus on developing both strategic priorities and more tactical priorities that support their specific operations. Absent strategic priorities, DHS used component subject matter experts and other information to develop key questions of common interest they would address through analysis. As a result, DHS does not have reasonable assurance that component analytic activities and resource investments are aligned to support departmental priorities. The mechanisms to integrate analysis, however, gave components insight into one another's work and helped them avoid unnecessary overlap and duplication.
I&A customers had mixed views on the extent to which its analytic products and services are useful. GAO's interviews with representatives of I&A's five customer groups indicate that two groups—DHS leadership and state, local, tribal, and territorial partners—found products to be useful, while three groups—DHS components, the Intelligence Community, and the private sector—generally did not. Representatives of four of the five groups said that they found other types of services, such as briefings, to be useful. Results from surveys that are attached to I&A products indicate that most customers were very satisfied with the products' usefulness, but the results are not generalizable because they reflect only the views of customers who chose to respond. To address this issue, I&A is conducting more comprehensive surveys and interviews with customers to evaluate the products and services that best meet their needs. I&A expects to complete this effort by the end of June 2014.
I&A has taken steps to address challenges it faced in maintaining a skilled workforce, but has not assessed whether its efforts are resolving the challenges. For example:
I&A faced challenges in recruiting and hiring analysts, in part because of its hiring authority, which put it at a disadvantage compared with other agencies that were able to process hiring actions more quickly. I&A's hiring authority was changed in 2013, a fact that could help ease these challenges.
I&A experienced low morale and high rates of attrition, particularly among its lower-level analysts. To help address these issues, I&A restructured its grade levels in 2012 to provide additional career advancement opportunities.
However, I&A has not established mechanisms to evaluate its efforts and use the results to make any needed changes because I&A leadership has focused on other priorities. Such mechanisms will help I&A evaluate if efforts are achieving their intended results of improving recruiting and hiring, bolstering morale, and reducing attrition. In addition, using the evaluation results to determine any needed changes will help ensure that I&A is making sound workforce decisions.
Why GAO Did This Study
DHS plays a vital role in securing the nation, and its intelligence analysis capabilities are a key part of this effort. Within DHS, I&A has a lead role for intelligence analysis, but other operational components also perform their own analysis activities. GAO was asked to review the management of departmental analysis efforts.
This report addresses the extent to which (1) DHS intelligence analysis activities are integrated to support departmental intelligence priorities, (2) I&A customers find analytic products and services useful, and (3) I&A has addressed challenges in maintaining a skilled analytic workforce.
GAO examined mechanisms DHS used to coordinate analysis across components, I&A reports and feedback surveys, and human capital plans. GAO also interviewed officials from I&A, the five DHS components with intelligence analysis as a core function, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence who represent the Intelligence Community, 7 of 78 fusion centers (focal points within states that analyze and share information), and the private sector. The fusion center and sector interviews, chosen based on geographic location and other factors, are not generalizable, but provided insight on progress.
What GAO Recommends
GAO recommends, among other things, that DHS (1) establish strategic intelligence priorities and use them to inform analytic activities and (2) establish mechanisms to evaluate workforce initiatives and use results to determine any needed changes. DHS concurred with our recommendations.
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Recommendations for Executive Action
Status: Closed - Implemented
Comments: In June 2014, we reported that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has established mechanisms, including the Homeland Security Intelligence Priorities Framework (HSIPF), to integrate DHS analysis activities to support departmental intelligence priorities. However, we found that the HSIPF and component analysis planning processes were not functioning as intended. Specifically, the HSIPF did not establish strategic departmental intelligence priorities that could be used to guide annual intelligence planning decisions, such as what analytic activities to pursue and what level of investment to make. For example, in fiscal years 2011 through 2013, DHS took a bottom-up approach to developing the HSIPF by linking broad departmental missions outlined in the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review, such as preventing terrorists attacks and effectively controlling U.S. borders, to different DHS intelligence categories relevant to these missions. As a result, the HSIPF presented existing intelligence activities of DHS components that are members of the department's intelligence enterprise rather than outlining strategic departmental intelligence priorities. We recommended that the DHS Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis establish strategic intelligence priorities in the HSIPF that could be used to guide annual enterprise planning efforts, including intelligence analysis and resource management. In July 2015, DHS's Office of Intelligence and Analysis established new intelligence priorities, which were the output of a modified process for developing the HSIPF. For example, the methodology used to develop the priorities included additional information that improves its utility to the DHS intelligence enterprise as well as to external partners. The new priorities also include tiered intelligence topics that can be used for strategic resources and management activities, as well as subtopics that can inform collection and analysis planning efforts. In addition, the priorities of individual components are included at the topic and subtopic levels, which are intended to improve enterprise understanding and awareness of the individual component priorities. As a result of DHS's actions, we are closing this recommendation as implemented.
Recommendation: To help ensure that the intelligence analysis activities and resources throughout the enterprise align to an integrated set of strategic departmental intelligence priorities, the Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis, Homeland Security should establish strategic departmental intelligence priorities in the Homeland Security Intelligence Priorities Framework that can be used to guide annual enterprise planning efforts, including intelligence analysis and resource management.
Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Office of Intelligence and Analysis
Status: Closed - Implemented
Comments: In June 2014, we reported that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has established mechanisms, including the Homeland Security Intelligence Priorities Framework (HSIPF), to integrate DHS analysis activities to support departmental intelligence priorities. However, we found that the HSIPF and component analysis planning processes were not functioning as intended. Specifically, the HSIPF did not inform the analytic planning and production in the DHS Intelligence Enterprise Program of Analysis (POA). DHS also did not focus its analytic planning efforts on a strategic set of priority questions of common interests to the intelligence enterprise as a whole. For example, in fiscal years 2012 and 2013, DHS took a bottom-up approach to develop the POA by having each component independently developed a set of key intelligence questions that it would address in the upcoming year. DHS then aggregated these individual component responses to generate the POA. This resulted in a catalogue of more than 80 questions to be addressed. This became challenging for components to focus on both overall strategic departmental intelligence priorities that support their specific operations and component customers. Consequently, we recommended that the DHS Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis ensure that once strategic departmental intelligence priorities are established, the HSIPF is used to inform the planned analytic activities of components in DHS's intelligence enterprise, as articulated in the POA. In July 2015, DHS's Office of Intelligence and Analysis released its fiscal year 2015 POA. The highest-tiered priorities in the HSIPF drove the content development of the POA, to include the formation of key intelligence questions, collection emphases, and planned analytic production. Also, according to DHS, the fiscal year 2015 POA was updated with the latest Intelligence Community-wide guidance from the Director of National Intelligence pertaining to the development and timelines of programs of analysis, and from internal lessons learned from the development process over the last 2 years. DHS also noted that the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis utilizes the entire HSIPF priorities to ensure that the office's strategic analytic planning and associated outputs--beyond the limited production addressed for focus in the POA--are consistent with enterprise-wide priorities, and in addition serve as a mechanism to measure analytic progress against the diversity of departmental mission areas. Finally, for the first time, the Office of Intelligence and Analysis is leveraging the DHS Chief Intelligence Officer Program Review of Component Intelligence Programs to develop a baseline understanding of how the HSIPF priorities impact component production. As a result of DHS's actions, we are closing this recommendation as implemented.
Recommendation: To help ensure that the intelligence analysis activities and resources throughout the enterprise align to an integrated set of strategic departmental intelligence priorities, the Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis, Homeland Security should ensure that once strategic departmental intelligence priorities are established, the Framework is used to inform the planned analytic activities of the DHS Intelligence Enterprise, as articulated in the Program of Analysis.
Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Office of Intelligence and Analysis
Comments: GAO will update the status of this recommendation when the Department of Homeland Security provides documentation and other information on actions it has taken to monitor and evaluate workforce initiatives.
Recommendation: To help ensure that I&A maintains critical skills and competencies, when planning for and implementing current and future workforce actions, the Secretary of Homeland Security should establish mechanisms to monitor and evaluate workforce initiatives and use results to determine any needed changes.
Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security