Quadrennial Homeland Security Review: 2010 Reports Addressed Many Required Elements, but Budget Planning Not Yet Completed

GAO-11-153R Published: Dec 16, 2010. Publicly Released: Dec 16, 2010.
Jump To:
Skip to Highlights

The United States continues to face a myriad of broad and evolving threats, such as the October 2010 attempted attack on the nation's air cargo system, that underscore the high priority the federal government places on homeland security and efforts to coordinate security roles, responsibilities, and activities across a wide variety of stakeholders, including state, local, tribal, private sector, nongovernmental, and international partners. The Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 (9/11 Commission Act) required that beginning in 2009 and every 4 years thereafter the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) conduct a quadrennial review that provides a comprehensive examination of the homeland security strategy of the United States. According to the act, the review is to delineate the national homeland security strategy, outline and prioritize critical homeland security missions, and assess the organizational alignment of DHS to the homeland security strategy and mission areas, among other things. The act required that DHS conduct the quadrennial review in consultation with stakeholders, such as heads of federal agencies; state, local, and tribal governments; private sector representatives; and academics and other policy experts. The act also specified that DHS was to issue a report on the results of the review, including reporting on nine specific elements such as the homeland security strategy and prioritized list of homeland security missions, by December 31, 2009. In February 2010, DHS issued its first Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (QHSR) report, outlining a strategic framework for homeland security to guide the activities of homeland security partners, including federal, state, local, and tribal government agencies; the private sector; and nongovernmental organizations. The report identified five homeland security missions--preventing terrorism and enhancing security; securing and managing our borders; enforcing and administering our immigration laws; safeguarding and securing cyberspace; and ensuring resilience to disasters--and goals and objectives to be achieved within each mission. The QHSR report also identified threats and challenges confronting U.S. homeland security, strategic objectives for strengthening the homeland security enterprise, and federal agencies' roles and responsibilities for homeland security. In addition to the QHSR report, in July 2010 DHS issued a report on the results of its Bottom- Up Review (BUR), a departmentwide assessment to align DHS's programmatic activities, such as investigating drug smuggling and inspecting cargo at ports of entry, and its organizational structure to the missions and goals identified in the QHSR. The BUR report described DHS's current activities within each of the five QHSR missions and two broad DHS functional areas that complement the homeland security missions--department management and accountability. The BUR report also identified priority initiatives to strengthen its activities. Congress asked us to review DHS's process for conducting its quadrennial review and DHS's reported results. This report addresses the extent to which the QHSR and BUR reports addressed the reporting elements specified for the QHSR in the 9/11 Commission Act.

We found that the QHSR and BUR reports provided examples of DHS's business lines, but did not include an assessment of the alignment of DHS's management systems, budget and accounting systems, human resource systems, and procurement systems to QHSR mission areas. In addition, neither the QHSR nor the BUR report included an explanation of why the department did not consider it to be appropriate or feasible to assess the alignment of DHS's management systems, budget and accounting systems, human resource systems, and procurement systems to the QHSR mission areas, such as a statement or conclusion that these business lines equally apply to all QHSR missions. Such a statement could have helped to explain how DHS viewed its business lines as supporting all of the QHSR mission goals and objectives. Therefore, we continue to believe that reporting element 5 was "Addressed in part" by DHS.

Full Report

GAO Contacts