Progress Report Marks Six-Year Anniversary Of Sept. 11
A new progress report on implementation of mission and management functions of the Department of Homeland Security from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has been released to lawmakers.
It reports that, according to the GAO, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) shows inadequate funding, unclear priorities, continuing reorganizations and the absence of an overarching strategy.
The report marks the sixth anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, as the Democratic Congress, Republican White House and presidential candidates from both parties are beginning to debate the administration’s record of accomplishments since that date.
The GAO states that after the largest government merger in more than half a century, the DHS met fewer than half of its performance objectives, or 78 of 171 directives identified by President Bush, Congress and the department’s own strategic plans. The department strongly disputes the report.
In one of its harshest conclusions, the 320-page document states that the DHS has made the least progress toward some of the fundamental goals identified after the 2001 attacks and again after Hurricane Katrina in August 2005: improving emergency preparedness; capitalizing on the nation’s wealth and scientific prowess through “Manhattan project”-style research initiatives; and eliminating bureaucratic and technical barriers to information-sharing.
Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) said that although the DHS “has made important progress,” it requires more focused attention and money. “Clearly, we have a long way to go before the department achieves the goals we set out for it four and a half years ago,” said Lieberman, who will chair a hearing on the matter this week.
At a hearing before the House Homeland Security Committee, Secretary Michael Chertoff sought to preempt the GAO’s findings, saying the Bush administration has “unequivocally” made the nation safer since 2001 and deserves credit for the absence of another strike on U.S. soil.
At the time, “no one would have been bold enough to predict that six years would pass without a further successful attack on the Homeland,” Chertoff said. He also complained that Congress itself has failed to streamline its oversight of the DHS, according to The Washington Post.
Analysts from across the political spectrum have complained that the DHS has spent $241 billion over four years without performing a disciplined analysis of threats and implications.
The GAO report draws on more than 400 earlier reviews and 700 recommendations by congressional investigators and the department’s inspector general, as well as the goals set by the Sept. 11 commission, the Century Foundation, congressional legislation and spending bills, and the administration’s own plans and internal strategic documents, such as the White House’s National Strategy for Homeland Security from July 2002.
GAO analysts acknowledged that DHS’s enormous size and complexity — spanning 220,000 employees and 22 component agencies — make the challenge “especially daunting and important.” They also said they do not intend to suggest that the DHS should have already met all expectations. “Successful transformations of large organizations, even those faced with less strenuous reorganizations than DHS, can take at least five to seven years to achieve,” the GAO stated, as reported in The Washington Post.
Still, although prior studies focused on the DHS’s many organizational problems — leading Chertoff to direct the department to sharpen its focus after he took office in February 2005 — the report indicates that it still has difficulty carrying out policy decisions and setting priorities.
The DHS met only five of 24 criteria for emergency preparedness, failing to implement a national response plan or develop a program to improve emergency radio communications. The department met just one of six science and technology goals, such as developing research and development plans and assessing emerging threats; and two of 15 computer integration targets, the report says.
Moderate progress, which the GAO defined as taking action on more than half of identified goals, was made in only five of 14 areas — immigration enforcement; aviation, land and transportation security; securing critical facilities such as bridges, power plants and computer networks; and property management — and substantial progress in just one, maritime and port security.