Transportation Security: DHS Efforts to Eliminate Redundant Background Check Investigations

GAO-07-756 Published: Apr 26, 2007. Publicly Released: Apr 26, 2007.
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Highlights

Since 9/11, the federal government has taken steps to ensure that transportation workers are screened to ensure that they do not pose a security risk. However, the number of DHS background check programs has raised concerns that such workers may be subject to redundant background check programs. The Security and Accountability for Every Port Act of 2006 required GAO to conduct a study of those DHS background check programs similar to the one required of truck drivers to obtain a hazardous material endorsement (HME). For this study, GAO examined DHS background check programs to identify (1) potential redundancies and inconsistencies, if any, connected with these programs, and (2) actions, if any, DHS is taking or planning to coordinate its background check programs. To address these objectives, GAO examined selected background check programs, interviewed DHS officials and private stakeholders, and reviewed relevant documents.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Homeland Security To help prevent redundancies and inefficiencies, the Secretary of Homeland Security should ensure that the plan being developed by DHS for coordinating its background check programs include, at a minimum, the steps the agency will take to align its screening and credentialing activities and include specific time frames and budget requirements for implementation. In addition, the plan should describe how and when DHS will establish and apply a common set of design and comparability standards for DHS's background check programs.
Closed – Implemented
In April 2007, GAO recommended that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) ensure that its coordination plan for conducting background check investigations to screen transportation workers include implementation steps, time frames, and budget requirements. DHS agreed with the recommendation. According to the DHS Screening Coordination Office, which is responsible for coordinating DHS screening programs, DHS and the Screening Coordination Office signed a contract to facilitate the creation of a Transition Plan. The Transition Plan outlines the projects needed to actualize the Capability Framework, including identification of major activities, milestones, and associated timeline and costs. The Transition Plan is scheduled to be completed in November 2007.
Department of Homeland Security To help prevent redundancies and inefficiencies, the Secretary of Homeland Security should ensure that the plan being developed by DHS for coordinating its background check programs include, at a minimum, a discussion of the potential costs/benefits associated with the number of redundant background checks that would be eliminated through harmonization.
Closed – Implemented
In April 2007, GAO recommended that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) ensure that its coordination plan for conducting background check investigations to screen transportation workers include implementation steps, time frames, and budget requirements. DHS agreed with the recommendation. According to the DHS Screening Coordination Office, which is responsible for coordinating DHS screening programs, DHS and the Screening Coordination Office signed a contract to facilitate the creation of a Transition Plan. The Transition Plan outlines the projects needed to actualize the Capability Framework, including identification of major activities, milestones, and associated timeline and costs. The Transition Plan is scheduled to be completed in November 2007.
Department of Homeland Security To help prevent redundancies and inefficiencies and because of DHS's responsibility for a large number of background check programs, the Secretary of Homeland Security should explore with other federal agencies options for harmonizing background check programs within DHS and other federal agencies.
Closed – Implemented
In April 2007, GAO recommended that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) explore options for coordinating and aligning background check investigations for transportation workers within DHS and other federal agencies. DHS agreed with the recommendation. According to the DHS Screening Coordination Office, which is responsible for coordinating DHS screening programs, DHS and the Screening Coordination Office signed a contract to create and document a comprehensive Credentialing Framework. The framework will assist DHS and the Screening Coordination Office align its screening and credentialing activities, set a method and timeframe for applying a common set of design and comparability standards, and eliminate redundancy through harmonization. Stakeholders in this effort range across multiple components of DHS, the Department of State, and the Department of Justice.

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