Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General (IG) John Roth released his annual performance challenge report Nov. 3 hitting hard on leadership deficiencies within the department. The report comes just days before DHS secretary nominee Kirstjen M. Nielsen faced a Senate confirmation hearing.
Major Management and Performance Challenges Facing the Department of Homeland Securityopened up noting ongoing management challenges insisting that DHS must not operate as a disparate entity and be more unified.
“Department leadership must establish and enforce a strong internal control environment typical of a more mature organization,” the report said. “The current environment of relatively weak internal controls affects all aspects of the department’s mission, from border protection to immigration enforcement, and from protection against terrorist attacks and natural disasters to cybersecurity.”
Citing the Government Accountability Office, the report notes five key elements necessary for the department to improve: “leadership commitment, capacity, an action plan, monitoring, and demonstrated progress.” And the report says DHS leadership historically hasn’t shown “sustained commitment to fully integrating its components.”
Leadership issues are no secret. After tapping John Kelly as DHS secretary at the beginning of his administration, President Donald Trump selected Kelly as White House chief of staff when Reince Priebus left in July. Acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke took over upon Kelly’s departure.
“We have seen little evidence of proactive effort by leadership to view the organization holistically, to forcefully communicate the need for cooperation among components, and to establish programs or policies that ensure unity,” the IG report said. “[W]eak or nonexistent central authority hinders oversight, monitoring, and compliance.”
The report did note progress in surge operations, but a lack of cooperation and central authority is still a challenge. “[T]he department does not have a designated responsible official or department-level group to address overarching issues related to immigration, resolve cross-cutting problems, and foster coordination in processing aliens,” the report said.
In acquisition, the report found that DHS has proper controls but there appears to be lack in follow through. “[T]he department does not always fully assess risk to determine priorities or catch problems early,” it said. “Most of DHS’ major acquisition programs continue to cost more than expected, take longer to deploy than planned, or deliver less capability than promised.”
Among other challenges DHS faces are hiring and maintaining staff levels and their proper allocation. “Our reports are replete with examples of insufficient training to enable and enhance job performance,” the report continued.
While the report says leadership responsibilities lie with the secretary, deputy secretary, and management undersecretary, it also explains other variables in play. “Unfortunately, these positions suffer from the lack of permanent, presidentially appointed and Senate-confirmed officials,” it said. “[T]here has not been the opportunity or leadership stability to implement or reinforce needed reforms.”
Read the full report here.