Fast Facts

Each year, we make more than 1,000 recommendations to help improve the federal government. We alert department heads to the recommendations where they can save the most money, address issues on our High Risk List, or significantly improve government operations.

This report outlines our 26 priority open recommendations for the Department of Homeland Security as of April 2019.

The recommendations relate to emergency preparedness, border and transportation security, infrastructure, cybersecurity, and chemical and nuclear security.

Since our previous letter in April 2018, DHS implemented 4 of our priority recommendations.


Graphic showing that this report discusses GAO's 2019 priority recommendations for the Department of Homeland Security

Graphic showing that this report discusses GAO's 2019 priority recommendations for the Department of Homeland Security

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What GAO Found

In April 2018, GAO identified 19 priority recommendations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Since then, DHS has implemented 4 of those recommendations by, among other things, taking actions to improve the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ ability to detect fraud patterns across asylum applications and the U.S. Border Patrol’s efforts to address tactical infrastructure requirements. The Transportation Security Administration has also limited funding for its Behavior Detection Program, consistent with our recommendation that it does so until it provides valid evidence demonstrating that behavioral indicators can be used to identify passengers who may pose a threat to aviation security. DHS also designated its headquarters consolidation program as a major acquisition, which resulted in greater departmental oversight.

In April 2019, GAO identified 11 additional priority recommendations for DHS, bringing the total number to 26. These recommendations involve the following areas:

  • improving FEMA’s management of the National Flood Insurance Program.  
  • analyzing the costs associated with future southwest border barrier segments. 
  • pursuing the acquisition of a new Coast Guard electronic health records system.
  • establishing a plan for closing Coast Guard boat stations determined to be duplicative. 
  • facilitating adoption of the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity.
  • directing the Assistant Secretary for DHS’s Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office to develop a strategy and implementation plan for countering chemical weapons of mass destruction.
  • improving the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s monitoring of radiological shipments.

DHS’s continued attention to these issues could lead to significant improvements in government operations. 

Why GAO Did This Study

Priority recommendations are open GAO recommendations that warrant priority attention from heads of key departments or agencies because their implementation could save large amounts of money; improve congressional and/or executive branch decision making on major issues; eliminate mismanagement, fraud, and abuse; or ensure that programs comply with laws and funds are legally spent, among other benefits. Since 2015, GAO has sent letters to selected agencies to highlight the importance of implementing such recommendations.

For more information, contact Charles M. Johnson, Jr. at (202) 512-8777 or

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