Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson’s nearly three-year old effort to breakdown stovepipes and create a more unified organization has continued to make progress but if the gains are to be sustained future leaders will have to maintain the focus on the Unity of Effort initiative and there also needs to be legal changes to institutionalize new structures, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General (IG) says in a new report.

“Progress has been made in both tone and substance” on Unity of Effort, says the annual report, Major Management and Performance Challenges Facing the Department of Homeland Security (OIG-17-08), released on Wednesday. The report says progress has been made on “ensuring a joint requirements process,” improving budgeting across the department, and “forging multiple components into a single organization.”

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. Photo: DHS
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. Photo: DHS

However, the IG says the Unity of Effort has been driven by a small number of the department’s senior leaders and that “Future leaders may not have the focus, capability, or desire to engage in the often coercive task of culture change,” adding that “Unity of effort needs to be more than a slogan and an initiative.” It also says that structural changes need to be authorized to prevent DHS from “backsliding” on progress so far.

Johnson said in a statement on Wednesday that he wants the incoming Trump administration to continue Unity of Effort reforms.

“It is my profound hope that the incoming administration will continue to focus on the management reform of DHS,” Johnson said.

The report also says that DHS has made progress on managing its acquisition processes but that “it has not yet coalesced into one entity working toward a common goal. “The Department still lacks uniform policies and procedures, a dedicated core of acquisition professionals, as well as component commitment to adhere to departmental acquisition guidance, adequately define requirements, develop performance measures, and dedicate sufficient resources to contract oversight.”

Regarding cyber security, the IG says that DHS has made “incremental” progress in instituting a department-wide information security program but that significant vulnerabilities still exist, such as ensuring that networked systems have authority to operate, continued operations of unsupported operating systems, and implementing baseline information security programs.

In summary, IG John Roth says in an letter to Johnson accompanying the report that while progress has been made the past three years in management at DHS, it “continues to face long-standing, persistent challenges overseeing and managing its homeland security mission.”

Separately, the IG’s office on Tuesday released the results of an independent report by the accounting firm KPMG LLP showing that DHS continues to make progress in its financial statements and controls, achieving a “clean” opinion on all statements. But, the IG says “KPMG issued an adverse opinion on DHS’ internal control over financial reporting because of material weakness in internal control.”

KMPM found six significant deficiencies in internal controls, three of which are material weaknesses, the IG says. The three material weaknesses are information technology controls and financial system functionality, financial reporting, and property, plant and equipment.

Russell Deyo, acting deputy secretary of DHS, said in a statement on Tuesday evening that the fourth consecutive annual clean audit option is “another milestone inn our financial management practices.”