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GAO’s Homeland Security and Justice Team

Posted on October 03, 2014
GAO’s workforce is organized largely by subject area, with most employees working in 1 of 14 mission teams, many of which we have highlighted on the WatchBlog. Today we’ll be putting the spotlight on the Homeland Security & Justice (HSJ) team, which works on issues such as border security and immigration, emergency preparedness and response, and justice and law enforcement. Reports HSJ reports cover several issue areas:
  • Border Security and Immigration
    • One report assessed enrollment in and effectiveness of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s trusted travelers programs.
  • Campaigns and Elections
    • A report and podcast assessed state and local elections officials’ views on holding federal elections on a weekend.
  • Critical Infrastructure
    • A testimony looked at how the Department of Homeland Security partners with industry to protect critical infrastructure.
  • Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice Management
    • A Department of Justice management report reviewed the Bureau of Prisons’ process for starting to use newly built or acquired federal prison facilities.
    • A Department of Homeland Security management report assessed planning efforts and decision making for its headquarters consolidation project.
  • Emergency Preparedness and Response
    • For example, this report examined the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s efforts to implement provisions of the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006.
  • Homeland Security Information Sharing
    • This report assessed the Department of Homeland Security’s efforts to analyze and share information on terrorist threats.
  • Judiciary
    • One testimony addressed how the Judicial Conference measures judicial workloads and uses this information to decide whether additional judgeships are needed.
  • Justice and Law Enforcement
    • This report looked at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ investigations of individuals who improperly purchased firearms because their background checks did not initially indicate ineligibility.
  • Transportation Security
    • A recently issued testimony determined whether the Transportation Security Administration had implemented our previous recommendations on the Screening Partnership Program.
You can learn even more about our work by checking out our High Risk issue areas on Strengthening Department of Homeland Security Management Functions, and Establishing Effective Mechanisms for Sharing and Managing Terrorism-Related Information to Protect the Homeland. You can also see our numerous Key Issues by checking the “Homeland Security” and “Justice and Law Enforcement” boxes on this page, or see other WatchBlog posts on the team’s work. Impact In fiscal year 2013, HSJ’s work identified $1.3 billion in financial benefits for the federal government as well as other non-financial benefits. Directors from HSJ testified at 20 congressional hearings and participated in one testimony with another GAO team. A Closer Look at an HSJ Report:  TSA’s Secure Flight Program The Transportation Security Administration is responsible for screening passengers and baggage at the majority of the nation’s commercial airports. Since 2009, TSA’s Secure Flight program has changed from its previous iteration as a program that identifies passengers as high risk solely by matching them against:
  • the No Fly List, composed of individuals who should be precluded from boarding an aircraft, and;
  • the Selectee List, composed of individuals who should receive enhanced screening at the airport security checkpoint.
The system now assigns passengers a risk category: high risk, low risk, or unknown risk. GAO-14-531 Fig 2

Excerpted from GAO-14-531

We found that TSA lacks key information about how well Secure Flight is achieving its goals, such as how often the system misses passengers on the watchlists. TSA also has not kept accessible, accurate information on the number or causes of the system’s matching errors. TSA airport screening personnel have also made errors in implementing Secure Flight determinations at the checkpoint. We recommended that TSA develop documentation mechanisms and other processes to address the Secure Flight program’s performance issues.
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