Homeland Security: Who Is Doing What?

GAO reveals that agencies have overlapping duties and roles in homeland security

The Government Accountability Office said Monday that the nation faces significant challenges in fully implementing a coordinated and integrated homeland security challenge among various departments and agencies.

There also appears to be overlapping responsibilities and confusion among the departments and agencies about who is responsible for what, the report indicated.

GAO reported that key federal departments such as the Departments of Defense, Energy, Homeland Security, Justice, State and Health and Human Services have all addressed the homeland security strategy’s 43 initiatives outlined in the national strategy issued by President Bush in 2002. The primary problem, GAO said, is that many of the initiatives featured multiple lead agencies. All of the initiatives were being implemented in fiscal 2004 by at least one department.

“Some of the most difficult challenges being confronted are those that cut across the various critical mission areas, such as balancing homeland security funding needs with other national requirements, improving risk management methods for resource allocation and investments, developing adequate homeland security performance measures, developing a national enterprise architecture for homeland security, and clarifying the roles and responsibilities among the levels of government and the private sector,” GAO stated.

The National Strategy for Homeland Security sets forth a plan to improve homeland security through the cooperation of federal, state, local, and private sector organizations on an array of functions. These functions are organized into the six distinct “critical mission areas” of (1) intelligence and warning, (2) border and transportation security, (3) domestic counterterrorism, (4) protecting critical infrastructures and key assets, (5) defending against catastrophic threats, and (6) emergency preparedness and response. Within each of these mission areas, the strategy identifies “major initiatives” to be addressed. In all, the strategy cites 43 initiatives across the six mission areas.

GAO reviewed the strategy’s implementation to

• determine whether its initiatives are being addressed by key departments’ strategic planning and implementation activities, whether the initiatives have lead agencies identified for their implementation, and whether the initiatives were being implemented in fiscal year 2004 by such agencies, and

• identify ongoing homeland security challenges that have been reflected in GAO products since Sept. 11, 2001, by both mission area and issues that cut across mission areas.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47