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GAO High-Risk Management

In 2003, the Government Accountability Office (GAO)  designated “Implementing and Transforming DHS” as high risk, due to the significant challenges associated with integrating 22 agencies, all with different cultures, systems, processes and existing management challenges.  GAO’s prior work on mergers and acquisitions, undertaken before the creation of DHS, found that successful transformations of large organizations (even those faced with less strenuous reorganizations) can take years to achieve. 

In the 2015 High Risk Series report, GAO acknowledged the Department’s significant progress and cited the remaining work in creating a cohesive organization.  In order to achieve this goal, DHS manages its high-risk designation by implementing the biannual Integrated Strategy for High Risk Management (Strategy), which includes progress related to strengthening and integrating:

  • information technology
  • financial management
  • human capital management
  • acquisition

GAO has stated that the Strategy “provides a path for DHS to be removed from GAO’s High Risk List,” if implemented and sustained.

In August 2016, DHS published its eleventh Strategy with goals and corrective action plans that directly address GAO’s 30 outcomes (i.e., desired end-states of maturation for the DHS management functions).  Since the first Strategy in January 2011, GAO has rated approximately 60% of outcomes as Fully or Mostly addressed, demonstrating the Department’s improved governance and maturity.

To ensure adequate oversight, a department-level Chief Executive Officer (e.g., Chief Financial Officer, Chief Information Office) monitors progress, manages risk and implements mitigation plans for each outcome. In addition, the Under Secretary for Management conducts regular leadership meetings with the Chief Executive Officers to monitor progress on key initiatives and high-risk outcomes. 

GAO has also remarked favorably on the level of DHS leadership commitment to resolving High Risk List outcomes in both the 2013 and 2015 High Risk Series reports.    Moving forward, DHS will continue to build on this progress by fully implementing the Strategy and will work with GAO to remove the Department from the High Risk List.

Last Published Date: January 17, 2017

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