More than a decade after its founding, creating an integrated whole out of the parts continues to be the major management problem facing DHS, according to the IG there.

“DHS’ primary challenge moving forward is transitioning from an organization of 22 semi-independent components, each conducting its affairs without regard to, and often without knowledge of, other DHS components’ programs and operations, to a more cohesive entity focused on the central mission of protecting the homeland. A lack of coordination and unity occurs in all aspects of DHS’ programs — planning, programing, budgeting, and execution — and leads to waste and inefficiency,” it said.

“Whether it is decisions on maintaining similar helicopters used by different components, harmonizing aviation maintenance management software, managing a vast vehicle fleet, coordinating protection of the maritime border, aligning immigration policies and data collection, sharing information, communicating on a common radio channel, or combatting tunnels on the Southwest border, DHS’ challenges in this area are well documented,” it said, noting that GAO, Congress and outside experts have raised similar issues.

It credited DHS with progress including policies and directives to ensure cohesive budgeting planning and execution, and to concentrate on understanding how components fit together and how each adds value to the enterprise.

However, it warned: “Future leaders may not have the focus, capability, or desire to engage in the often coercive task of culture change. Unity of effort needs to be more than a slogan and an initiative. Ensuring continued progress requires the constant attention of senior leaders. Absent structural changes to ensure streamlined oversight, communication, responsibility, and accountability — changes that must be enshrined in law — the risk of DHS backsliding on the progress made to date is very real.”