Homeland Security:

Critical Design and Implementation Issues

GAO-02-957T: Published: Jul 17, 2002. Publicly Released: Jul 17, 2002.

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The government faces a unique opportunity to create an organization that is extremely effective in protecting the nation's borders and citizens against terrorism. There is likely to be considerable benefit over time from restructuring some of the homeland security functions, including reducing risk and improving the economy, efficiency, and effectiveness of consolidated agencies and programs. Sorting out those programs and agencies that would most benefit from consolidation versus those in which dual missions must be balanced in order to achieve a more effective fit in the proposed Department of Homeland Security is a difficult but critical task. Moreover, the magnitude of the challenges that the new department faces will clearly require substantial time and effort, and it will take institutional continuity and additional resources to be fully effective. In the short term, issues to be resolved include the harmonization of communication systems, information technology systems, human capital systems, the physical location of people and other assets, and other factors. Given the magnitude of this task, not everything can be achieved at once, and a deliberate phasing of some operations will be necessary. The new department will need to articulate a clear overarching mission and core values, establish a short list of initial critical priorities, develop effective communication and information systems, and produce an overall implementation plan for the new national strategy and related reorganization. Effective performance and risk management systems must also be established, and threat and vulnerability assessments must be completed.

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