They consist of four types of efforts: deploying programs abroad that inhibit people who present a threat to the United States; working with and sharing information with international and federal partners to help counter terrorism; working alongside foreign officials in assessing their own security vulnerabilities; and helping other nations strengthen their security infrastructure through training and consultation.
Although the GAO found that the programs have contributed to fighting terrorism, the agency recommended that the DHS establish clearer priorities and better ways to track whether program spending was directed in ways that were optimal for furthering those priorities.
But 10 years after the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, it may be time to reassess not just how DHS handles some policies but how it’s structured. In anticipation of the second quadrennial homeland security review of the agency (due in December but not out at press time), The Heritage Foundation last year laid out what it saw as major concerns—such as that DHS and the Department of Justice (DOJ) are still fighting over who should take the lead on intelligence information sharing with state and local law enforcement. It’s time to cede that ground to the DOJ, it said. For example, the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) are more established than the DHS’s fusion centers and the dual-tracking of these sometimes competing efforts creates inefficiencies.
The group also calls on DHS to find ways to coordinate work better with state and local law enforcement in intelligence gathering and counterterrorism. Another suggestion is to stop involving the federal government in routine disasters. Instead, it advocates letting the Federal Emergency Management Agency focus (FEMA) resources on preparing for truly catastrophic events, because the federal government still lacks that type of comprehensive plan.