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Homeland Security: Key Elements to Unify Efforts Are Underway but Uncertainty Remains

GAO-02-610 Published: Jun 07, 2002. Publicly Released: Jun 11, 2002.
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The issue of homeland security crosscuts numerous policy domains, impinging on the expertise and resources of every level of government, the private sector, and the international community. GAO found that although combating terrorism crossed organizational boundaries, it did not sufficiently coordinate the activities of the 40 federal entities involved, resulting in duplication and gaps in coverage. The homeland security efforts of public and private entities do not yet represent a unified approach, although key supporting elements for such an approach are emerging. Progress has been made in developing a framework to support a more unified effort. Other remaining key elements--a national strategy, establishment of public and private sector partnerships, and the definition of key terms--are either not in place yet or are evolving. At the same time, key terms, such as "homeland security," have not been defined officially; consequently, certain organizational, management, and budgetary decisions cannot currently be made across agencies. In the interim, the potential exists for an uncoordinated approach to homeland security that may lead to duplication of efforts or gaps in coverage, misallocation of resources, and inadequate monitoring of expenditures.


Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Executive Office of the President The President should direct the Office of Homeland Security to develop a comprehensive, governmentwide definition of homeland security.
Closed – Implemented
The White House developed a government-wide definition of homeland security in July 2002.
Executive Office of the President The President should direct the Office of Homeland Security to include the definition in the forthcoming national strategy.
Closed – Implemented
The definition of homeland security was included in the National Strategy for Homeland Security issued in July 2002.

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Combating terrorismEmergency preparednessHomeland securityInteragency relationsIntergovernmental relationsNational defense operationsStrategic planningTerrorismPrivate sectorLocal governments