DHS staff members attend the 2009 opening of the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team/National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center facility in Arlington, Virginia. (Win McNamee / Getty Images)
Despite having established systems for integrating intelligence and analytic activities, the Homeland Security Department continues to wrestle with planning and prioritizing its strategies, according to a new Government Accountability Office report.
DHS has in place mechanisms such as an intelligence framework and an analytic planning process, but those mechanisms are not effective, GAO said. As a result, DHS components face problems in areas such as establishing departmental priorities, as well as in maintaining a skilled intelligence workforce.
The oversight agency’s research showed that the existing intelligence framework fails to establish “strategic departmental intelligence priorities that can be used to inform annual planning decisions, such as what analytic activities to pursue and the level of investment to make, as called for in DHS guidance,” the report noted. As a result, managers in DHS’ Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) struggle to develop both overarching strategic priorities and tactical priorities aimed at specific operations.
The report was not all bad news – despite falling short in some areas, efforts to integrate analysis within DHS offices did help in some ways.
“On the other hand, intelligence officials from I&A and all five components in our review reported that efforts to implement these mechanisms, particularly the analytic planning process, have allowed them to coordinate component activities and avoid unnecessary overlap or duplication of efforts,” the report stated.
Still, DHS I&A faces challenges in other ways, including its workforce and its measurement of existing activities aimed at improving workforce problems.
The organization has had trouble recruiting and hiring analysts because of shortfalls in hiring authorities, which put I&A behind other agencies able to faster process human resources. I&A also has suffered from low morale and high attrition rates. Both of those issues have been addressed – through adjustments to hiring authorities in 2013 and a restructure of grade levels in 2012 targeting career advancement – but I&A has not made any strides in evaluating those mechanisms or capitalizing on the results.
“By not monitoring and evaluating the effect of these actions, I&A cannot be confident that it is making progress in improving its ability to build and maintain the workforce it needs to effectively and efficiently analyze possible threats to the homeland,” the report said. “Such mechanisms will help I&A evaluate if efforts are achieving their intended results of improving recruiting and hiring, bolstering morale, and reducing attrition. In addition, using the evaluation results to determine any needed changes will help ensure that I&A is making sound workforce decisions.”
DHS concurred with GAO’s recommendations for addressing the issues, which included establishing strategic departmental intelligence priorities in the Homeland Security Intelligence Priorities Framework to help guide annual enterprise planning efforts; ensuring that once strategic departmental intelligence priorities are established, the Framework is used to inform the planned analytic activities of the DHS Intelligence Enterprise; and instituting tools to monitor and evaluate workforce initiatives and use results to determine any needed changes.