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Monday, April 22, 2024

GAO: Additional Actions Needed to Improve Oversight of Joint Task Forces

In the realm of homeland security, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been at the forefront of orchestrating joint task forces to tackle intricate challenges such as drug smuggling and terrorism. From 2015 to 2020, DHS operated three intradepartmental task forces, employing a collaborative approach to coordinate agencies and respond effectively to multifaceted threats. However, recent scrutiny by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reveals significant gaps in the management and oversight of these joint task forces.

DHS has not developed and documented criteria for establishing or terminating joint task forces, as of November 2023. From 2015 to 2020, DHS operated three task forces, but terminated two in 2020 (see table).

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Joint Task Force Operating Status, as of November 2023

Source: GAO analysis of DHS documentation. | GAO-24-106855

In 2020, DHS discontinued two of the three task forces, leaving one, the Joint Task Force-East, active. Congress responded by mandating that DHS provides detailed reports explaining the initiation or termination of task forces. The objective was to establish clear criteria guiding such decisions and set measurable performance goals for active task forces. As of November 2023, GAO’s review uncovered that DHS fell short on both fronts.

One of the critical findings pertains to the absence of written criteria guiding DHS decisions to initiate or terminate joint task forces. While DHS is statutorily required to inform Congress about the conditions under which a task force is established or terminated, the department lacked specific criteria for making these decisions. GAO emphasizes that having written criteria would enhance DHS’s ability to communicate the rationale behind these decisions, fostering transparency and accountability.

Furthermore, GAO highlighted the inadequacy in establishing measurable performance goals for active task forces, with a particular focus on the Joint Task Force-East. Although DHS has taken steps to develop performance measures for this task force, the finalized versions are still pending as of November 2023. GAO had previously recommended that DHS implement outcome-based performance measures for joint task forces in 2019, but the progress has been limited. The lack of targets and a documented methodology for performance measures jeopardizes DHS’s ability to showcase the effectiveness of Joint Task Force-East.

The GAO report underscores the need for DHS to take swift action in addressing these shortcomings. By developing and documenting criteria for initiating or terminating task forces and establishing clear performance measures with targets, DHS can bolster its management of joint task forces. These measures not only enhance transparency and accountability but also enable DHS to effectively demonstrate the results and impact of its collaborative efforts in securing the nation. As cyber threats and complex challenges persist, the effective functioning of joint task forces remains crucial to ensuring the resilience of the nation’s security infrastructure.

Read the full GAO report here.

author avatar
Matt Seldon
Matt Seldon, BSc., is an Editorial Associate with HSToday. He has over 20 years of experience in writing, social media, and analytics. Matt has a degree in Computer Studies from the University of South Wales in the UK. His diverse work experience includes positions at the Department for Work and Pensions and various responsibilities for a wide variety of companies in the private sector. He has been writing and editing various blogs and online content for promotional and educational purposes in his job roles since first entering the workplace. Matt has run various social media campaigns over his career on platforms including Google, Microsoft, Facebook and LinkedIn on topics surrounding promotion and education. His educational campaigns have been on topics including charity volunteering in the public sector and personal finance goals.
Matt Seldon
Matt Seldon
Matt Seldon, BSc., is an Editorial Associate with HSToday. He has over 20 years of experience in writing, social media, and analytics. Matt has a degree in Computer Studies from the University of South Wales in the UK. His diverse work experience includes positions at the Department for Work and Pensions and various responsibilities for a wide variety of companies in the private sector. He has been writing and editing various blogs and online content for promotional and educational purposes in his job roles since first entering the workplace. Matt has run various social media campaigns over his career on platforms including Google, Microsoft, Facebook and LinkedIn on topics surrounding promotion and education. His educational campaigns have been on topics including charity volunteering in the public sector and personal finance goals.

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