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Homeland Security Is Faulted in Audit

The inspector general says DHS faces
The inspector general says DHS faces "formidable challenges" in securing borders, such as here between San Diego, upper left, and Mexico. (By Denis Poroy -- Associated Press)

Skinner's audit deals not only with the department's response to Katrina but also with an array of broader management challenges that have troubled DHS. The department brought together immigration and customs agencies, the Secret Service, the Coast Guard and the Transportation Security Administration, among others. Although there has been progress, "integrating its many separate components in a single, effective and economical department remains one of DHS' biggest challenges," the audit said.

The report found, among other things, that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has failed to maintain proper financial records; that much of the department's technology infrastructure remains fractured and ineffective; and that DHS faces "formidable challenges in securing the nation's borders."

Skinner also reiterated complaints about poor coordination between the border patrol and immigration investigators. Chertoff has rejected Skinner's recommendation that the agencies responsible for these employees be merged.

The audit followed a report Tuesday by 13 Democratic members of the House Homeland Security Committee, who alleged that the administration has failed to fulfill promises for improvements in areas such as border security and intelligence sharing. The report also noted that the department has missed deadlines to create a comprehensive database of critical infrastructure targets that face a high risk of terrorist attack.

"The findings of the report are significant because they uncover a number of unnecessary vulnerabilities to our homeland security that the American people deserve to know about," the committee's ranking Democrat, Rep. Bennie Thompson (Miss.), said in a statement with the report.

Knocke disputed many of the Democratic criticisms, arguing that they ignore many specific changes that are underway and do not take into account significant progress in homeland security since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

"Virtually each of these claims fall short of reflecting the substantial work that has been done in securing America since 9/11," Knocke said.

Researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

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