DHS Slammed for Failing to Counter Terrorism

Two decades after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was created to protect the U.S. from another 9/11, the agency faces serious management and performance challenges that prevent it from fulfilling its critical mission, according to a federal audit that says DHS must improve how it identifies domestic terrorism threats and better manage its efforts to counter homemade explosive devices. DHS also got slammed for one of its biggest lapses, failing to secure the southern border. “Migrant surges require a whole-of-government approach,” according to the report issued days ago by the DHS Inspector General. However, a coordinated response did not occur because DHS failed to conduct multi-component planning between Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Furthermore, the surges in immigration exposed technology challenges which impede CBP and ICE personnel from tracking migrants from apprehension to release or transfer, the probe found. “Technology deficiencies also meant that data was not consistently documented in DHS’ systems of record, which can delay DHS from uniting children with families and sponsors, or cause migrants to remain in DHS custody longer than legally allowed,” the watchdog writes in its report. Investigators also trash the way DHS managed the sudden influx of Ukrainian and Afghan citizens. Specifically, screening, vetting, and inspecting all evacuees after the Biden administration withdrew American troops from Afghanistan was a “challenge,” the report reveals, adding that the watchdog continues to evaluate CBP’s access to critical data necessary to fully vet individuals trying to enter the U.S.

The report delves into other areas such as DHS’ cybersecurity weaknesses and the famously corrupt Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the 20,000-employee conglomerate created by former President Jimmy Carter’s executive order in 1979. FEMA operates under DHS and lists helping people before, during and after disasters as its mission. The agency has been involved in a multitude of scandals surrounding pervasive fraud in its COVID-19 relief programs. DHS and FEMA need to analyze systemic weaknesses across the spectrum of disaster-related funding and services, the IG writes, adding that the agencies must make overarching improvements in risk assessment, controls, policies, systems and applications, resources, training, and data. “As of July 31, 2022, OIG had received more than 7,500 complaints and initiated more than 300 investigations related to COVID-19, including allegations that fraud networks have secured pandemic-related benefits,” the new report states. Fraud and corruption is so rampant in the government’s massive COVID-19 cash giveaway that the Department of Justice (DOJ) created a COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to “enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud.”

This probe did not dig deeply into the pandemic fraud cases but offered enough information to convey the problem. Attached to the 17-page audit is a document issued by DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and the “leadership team across all DHS components” listing the agency’s 12 priorities for 2022. They include advancing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) in the workforce and to protect the privacy, civil rights, civil liberties, and human rights of the communities served as well to ensure DHS reflects the diversity of the communities it serves. Another priority is securing the nation’s borders by giving the agency’s workforce the tools to interdict irregular migration and illicit flows of drugs, weapons, and other contraband. Record-breaking illegal immigration in fiscal year 2022 proves that never materialized. DHS also made it a priority to build a fair, orderly, and humane immigration system and to implement lawful pathways as alternatives to irregular migration and enhanced policies to administer the nation’s laws and uphold our values as a nation of immigrants expeditiously and fairly. The rest of the priorities include preparing the nation to respond and recover from disasters and combat the climate crisis, increasing cybersecurity and combatting all forms of terrorism.

After getting blasted by auditors, DHS struck back claiming in a lengthy letter that the report is “misleading” and accusing its watchdog of being “inaccurate, contextually incomplete and confusing.”

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