The Department of Homeland Security needs to address “gaps and weaknesses” in its mammoth effort to restructure the federal government to prevent another terrorist attack, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.
The department, created in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attack, is the third-largest department in the federal government, with more than 200,000 employees and an annual budget of more than $50 billion.
The report is to be released Wednesday morning at a hearing before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. An advance copy was obtained by the Washington Post.
“Eight years after its creation and 10 years after September 11, 2001, DHS has indeed made significant strides in protecting the nation, but has yet to reach its full potential,” says the report, which credits DHS with “noteworthy accomplishments.”
Management problems have contributed to schedule delays, cost increases and performance problems in major programs, according to the report.
One example cited is the Coast Guard’s Deepwater Program to modernize ships and aircraft, which has faced problems because DHS lacks enough skilled personnel in fields such as acquisition management, according to the report.
DHS also needs to improve information-sharing with other federal agencies about cyber-based threats, the report states.
“The department has more to do to ensure that it conducts its missions efficiently and effectively, while simultaneously preparing to address future challenges that face the department and the nation,” Eugene Dodaro, the GAO comptroller general, said in prepared remarks, adding that addressing the issues will likely be “particularly challenging” with budget cuts looming.
The report credits the department with important advances in its eight years, including the creation of a quadrennial homeland security review to provide a framework for government efforts, and the assumption of security screening responsibilities at airports nationwide.
Staff Writer Joe Davidson contributed to this report.