Priority Open Recommendations: Department of Homeland Security

GAO-20-355PR Published: Apr 23, 2020. Publicly Released: Apr 30, 2020.
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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 29 priority open recommendations for the Department of Homeland Security as of April 2020.

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

Since our previous letter in April 2019, DHS implemented 4 of our priority recommendations.

DHS priority recommendation graphic

DHS priority recommendation graphic

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What GAO Found

In April 2019, GAO identified 26 priority recommendations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Since then, DHS has implemented 4 of those recommendations. In doing so, DHS, as a member of the Mitigation Framework Leadership Group, published the National Mitigation Investment Strategy to identify, prioritize, and guide federal investments in disaster resilience and hazard mitigation-related activities. The Coast Guard has also taken steps to implement an electronic health record system. DHS has also improved its collection of data on cybersecurity positions and developed guidance to identify cybersecurity critical needs that align to the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education framework.

In April 2020, GAO identified 7 additional priority recommendations for DHS, bringing the total number to 29. These recommendations involve the following areas:

  • improving the interagency process for the referral and placement of unaccompanied alien children in Health and Human Services shelters.
  • developing processes for conducting and reporting Transportation Security Administration (TSA) covert test results.
  • developing a strategic workforce plan for TSA's pipeline security program.
  • applying management practices to improve Coast Guard's shore infrastructure backlog.
  • completing the assignment of the appropriate cybersecurity work role codes for DHS's information technology (IT) workforce.  
  • developing a DHS cybersecurity risk management strategy.
  • implementing a process for coordination between DHS's cybersecurity risk management and enterprise risk management functions.

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

Why GAO Did This Study

Priority open recommendations are the 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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