DHS Multi-Agency Operation Centers Would Benefit from Taking Further Steps to Enhance Collaboration and Coordination

GAO-07-686R: Published: Apr 5, 2007. Publicly Released: Apr 5, 2007.

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Eileen R. Larence
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This letter addresses the conference report to H.R. 5441 and Senate Report 109-273, which directs GAO to (1) analyze the role of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) National Operations Center and DHS component operations centers and (2) make recommendations regarding the operation and coordination of these centers. On March 1 and 13, 2007, we met with House and Senate Committee staff, respectively, to brief them on completed and ongoing GAO work that addresses these issues. Both House and Senate staff agreed that this information addresses the appropriations mandates and their related concerns regarding DHS's operations centers. We primarily relied on a prior GAO report on DHS multi-agency operations centers to satisfy these mandates. In our completed review, we specifically examined (1) the missions, products, functions, and customers of the multi-agency DHS operations centers that operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year (24/7/365), and (2) DHS's implementation of key practices for enhancing and sustaining collaboration at these multi-agency centers. We also have work underway that includes an assessment of DHS's plans for consolidating its real property holdings in the National Capital Region, including the National Operations Center and component operations centers. This letter and the accompanying enclosure transmit the information provided during those briefings to House and Senate staff.

The four multi-agency operations centers each have their own mission and generate different products while performing some similar functions and sharing a number of customers. The missions of the Air and Marine Operations Center, National Targeting Center, and Transportation Security Operations Center are distinctive and tactical, including such activities as monitoring the nation's airspace, the movement of potential terrorists, and the passengers on commercial flights. The National Operations Center-Interagency Watch's mission is more strategic in that it collects information gathered by the other multi-agency operations centers and provides a national perspective on situational awareness for potential terrorist activity. The products of the four multi-agency operations centers reflect their different missions and range from reports on suspicious private air and marine craft from the Air and Marine Operations Center, individuals entering the country at land, sea, and airports from the National Targeting Center, and individuals traveling on commercial flights from the Transportation Security Operations Center, to an overview of the national threat environment from the National Operations Center-Interagency Watch. The multi-agency operations centers all share common functions such as maintaining situational awareness, sharing information, and communications; coordinating internal operations, and coordinating among federal, state, local, tribal, and private-sector entities; and managing incidents and making decisions. In addition, the Air and Marine Operations Center and National Operations Center-Interagency Watch conduct operational command and control and, along with the National Targeting Center, coordinate with foreign governments. The four multi-agency operations centers' primary customers include other federal agencies, and state and local governments; private-sector entities; and some foreign governments.

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