While the U.S. government has made great strides in homeland security ten years after the 9/11 terror attacks, there are still gaping holes in the nation’s security, according to a congressional audit.
The Government Accountability Office audit concluded that the Homeland Security Department has completed about half the nearly 1,500 recommendations made by federal auditors. Large gaps that need to be filled include a biometric exit system that identifies who should leave the country and enhanced explosive detection technology for checked baggage at airports.
“The bottom line of our report is a lot of progress has been made since 9/11 … but there is work remaining to address gaps and weakness that will enable DHS to reach its full potential,” U.S. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro told senators at a recent Senate hearing.
Dodaro said the DHS needs to improve management oversight of department programs and improvements to technology testing and purchasing programs. Plus, the DHS needs to work on technical, internal programs, including creating a consolidated financial system that combines information from all 22 DHS agencies.
The DHS responded quickly to the criticism that it allowed visitors to overstay and become illegal immigrants through a new system that automatically checks multiple national security, immigration and law enforcement databases at the same time. The new system has already identified dozens of investigative leads, said John Cohen, deputy counterterrorism coordinator at the Homeland Security Department.
The report also found the DHS has had management problems that have contributed to schedule delays, cost increases and performance problems in major programs. An example is the Coast Guard’s Deepwater Program to modernize ships and aircraft, which has faced problems because DHS lacks skilled personnel in fields such as acquisition management, according to the report.
While Jane Holl Lute, the second-in-charge at the Homeland Security Department, agreed the DHS still needs some work, she noted that the DHS has made improvements in securing cyber infrastructure, airport passenger screening, and security at the border with Mexico, among other things.
“We can detect threats sooner with better information and make adjustments more quickly based on real-time intelligence,” Lute said, as reported by AP. “Today we know more about those who seek to enter our country, what threats they may pose and what is needed to prevent potential problems from reaching our shores.”