Homeland Security:

Intergovernmental Coordination and Partnership Will Be Critical to Success

GAO-02-901T: Published: Jul 3, 2002. Publicly Released: Jul 3, 2002.

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Jayetta Hecker
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The challenges posed by homeland security exceed the capacity and authority of any one level of government. Protecting the nation against these threats calls for a truly integrated approach, bringing together the resources of all levels of government. The proposed Department of Homeland Security will have a central role in efforts to enhance homeland security. The proposed consolidation of homeland security programs has the potential to reduce fragmentation, improve coordination, and clarify roles and responsibilities. However, formation of a department should not be considered a replacement for the timely issuance of a national homeland security strategy to guide implementation of the complex mission of the department. Appropriate roles and responsibilities within and between the government and private sector need to be clarified. New threats are prompting a reassessment and shifting of long-standing roles and responsibilities, but these shifts are being considered on a piecemeal and ad hoc basis without benefit of an overarching framework and criteria. A national strategy could provide guidance by more systematically identifying the unique capacities and resources at each level of government to enhance homeland security and by providing increased accountability within the intergovernmental system. The nation does not yet have performance goals and measures upon which to assess and improve preparedness and develop common criteria that can demonstrate success; promote accountability; and determine areas where resources are needed, such as improving communications and equipment interoperability. A careful choice of the most appropriate tools is critical to achieve and sustain national goals. The choice and design of policy tools, such as grants, regulations, and tax incentives, will enable all levels of government to target areas of highest risk and greatest need, promote shared responsibilities, and track and assess progress toward achieving preparedness goals.

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