Letters And Testimony


An Efficiency Agenda for the Department of Homeland Security

letters and testimony

An Efficiency Agenda for the Department of Homeland Security

May 10, 2024

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Today, I submitted written testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Homeland Security. Click here to download a pdf of the testimony.

Chairman Amodei, Ranking Member Underwood, and members of the Subcommittee:

My name is Dan Lips. I am Head of Policy at the Foundation for American Innovation, a think tank focused on promoting innovation, strengthening governance, and advancing national security. I write to respectfully request that the subcommittee include report language requiring the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to brief the committee on its implementation of open Government Accountability Office (GAO) and Inspector General (IG) recommendations. Specifically, DHS should be required to identify currently open recommendations that could yield substantial cost savings or other significant improvements and provide a plan for timely implementation.

The United States faces significant economic and national security challenges, including rising threats to homeland security. Managing these risks and securing the homeland during a period of growing fiscal challenges and uncertainty will require Congress and DHS to collaborate to achieve cost savings and improve the efficiency and performance of the Department’s and its components’ programs. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the federal government will pay $870 billion in net interest in 2024, or more than the defense budget, and interest payments will grow to $1.6 trillion by 2034, or a projected 3.9 percent of Gross Domestic Product. The federal government’s “unsustainable long-term fiscal path” will present significant challenges for funding federal programs, including even defense and homeland security activities.

One way for Congress and federal agencies to achieve cost savings and improve performance during this challenging fiscal environment would be to enact nonpartisan watchdog recommendations in a timely manner. Through the FY2023 Omnibus Appropriations Act, Congress required GAO to issue a report estimating the potential cost savings that could be achieved if federal agencies acted upon the congressional watchdog agency’s unimplemented recommendations. According to its report responding to Congress, GAO estimated that implementing all of GAO’s open recommendations and matters for congressional consideration “could produce $92 billion to $182 billion of measurable, future financial benefits.” However, the watchdog agency indicated that this was a conservative estimate, since the estimate did not include “certain individual recommendations that may have large potential financial benefits, such as one for equalizing certain Medicare payment rates that the Congressional Budget Office estimated could result in $141 billion in financial benefits.”

Regarding the Department of Homeland Security, GAO identified “81 instances of financial benefits totalling $19.3 billion and 2,111 other benefits resulting from implementation of recommendations, where DHS was a contributing agency.” Further, GAO estimated that the financial benefits of implementing all open GAO recommendations could achieve between $2 billion and $4 billion in savings.

As of May 9, 2024, GAO reports that more than 144 recommendations (including nine priority recommendations) for DHS remain open. Eighteen of these recommendations were made more than four years ago, which is important since GAO has warned that recommendations not made within four years are less likely to be implemented. At the end of FY2023, the Inspector General reported that DHS had “36 recommendations open and unresolved more than 6 months,” which include recommendations from seven reports issued more than four years ago.

To help achieve taxpayer savings and achieve other improvements, the Committee should require DHS to identify currently open GAO and IG recommendations that could achieve significant cost savings or improve national security and expedite their implementations. The Committee could require DHS to brief Congress on these recommendations and provide a plan of action to implement them in a timely manner.

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The nation’s serious fiscal challenges will require Congress and DHS to increase efficiency to maintain the nation’s defense. Implementing nonpartisan watchdog recommendations in a timely manner should be a priority for Congress and DHS.

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