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Priority Open Recommendations: Department of Homeland Security

GAO-21-377PR Published: Aug 13, 2021. Publicly Released: Aug 23, 2021.
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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 38 priority open recommendations for DHS as of August 2021.

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

Since our previous letter in April 2020, DHS implemented 12 of our priority recommendations.

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Graphic that says, "GAO's Priority Open Recommendations" and includes the seal for DHS.

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What GAO Found

In April 2020, GAO identified 29 priority recommendations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Since then, DHS has implemented 12 of those recommendations. In doing so, DHS implemented a more accurate methodology for the National Flood Insurance Program, strengthened efforts to address fraud risks within the asylum process, improved the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) risk management in the collection of antidumping and countervailing (AD/CV) duties, and strengthened the effectiveness of the Transportation Security Administration's Transportation Worker Identification Credential, covert testing, and pipeline security programs.

In addition, DHS established metrics for assessing the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center's execution of statutory required cybersecurity functions, identified the positions in its information technology workforce that performed cybersecurity functions, and developed a cybersecurity risk management strategy. DHS has also improved CBP's radiological license verification policies and procedures.

In August 2021, GAO identified 21 additional priority recommendations for DHS, bringing the total number to 38. The 38 recommendations fall into the following areas:

  • Emergency preparedness and response.
  • Border security.
  • Transportation security.
  • Infrastructure and management.
  • Information technology and cybersecurity.
  • Chemical and nuclear security.

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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Border controlBorder patrolBorder securityCompliance oversightCybersecurityDisastersEmergency preparednessEmergency responseHigh-risk issuesHomeland securityInformation technologyRisk managementNuclear securityTransportation security