oversight

Combating Nuclear Terrorism: DHS Should Address Limitations to Its Program to Secure Key Cities

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2019-05-13.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

             United States Government Accountability Office
             Report to Congressional Requesters




             COMBATING
May 2019




             NUCLEAR
             TERRORISM

             DHS Should Address
             Limitations to Its
             Program to Secure
             Key Cities




GAO-19-327
                                              May 2019

                                              COMBATING NUCLEAR TERRORISM
                                              DHS Should Address Limitations to Its Program to
                                              Secure Key Cities
Highlights of GAO-19-327, a report to
congressional requesters




Why GAO Did This Study                        What GAO Found
Countering the threat that a terrorist        The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) does not collect information to fully
could smuggle nuclear or radiological         track cities’ use of Securing the Cities (STC) program funds for approved
materials into the United States is a top     purposes and to assess their performance in the program. To reduce the risk of
national security priority. In fiscal year    successful deployment of nuclear or radiological weapons in U.S. cities, the
2007, DHS initiated the STC program           program establishes local threat detection and deterrence capabilities. DHS
to reduce the risk of the deployment of       tracks cities’ spending of program funds and some performance data through
a nuclear or radiological weapon by           cities’ quarterly reports but does not collect other data on itemized expenditures
establishing capability in state and          and to assess how effectively cities achieved performance metrics and program
local agencies to detect and deter such
                                              milestones or how they performed in drills that simulate a threat. For example,
threats. Since the program began, five
                                              DHS does not compare information on expenditures to the purchase plans it
participating cities have spent almost
$145 million in program funds.
                                              approved for cities. As a result, DHS does not know the dollar amounts cities
                                              actually spent on program purchases. Expenditure data GAO requested show
GAO was asked to review the STC               that cities spent most funds on detection equipment—that is, $94.5 million of the
program. This report examines (1) the         $144.8 million cities spent through June 30, 2018. By regularly collecting
extent to which DHS tracks cities’ use        expenditure information from cities and comparing it to approved purchase plans,
of program funds and assesses their           DHS could better ensure these funds were spent consistent with program goals.
performance; (2) what assurance DHS
has that cities can sustain capabilities      DHS does not have assurance that cities can sustain threat detection and
gained through the STC program and            deterrence capabilities gained through the STC program. DHS has not enforced
the challenges, if any, that cities face in   planning requirements for sustaining those capabilities and has taken limited
sustaining such capabilities; and (3)         action to help cities do so, although encouraging sustainment is one of its
potential changes to the STC program          primary program goals. Officials from the five cities in the program told GAO that
and how DHS plans to implement                they anticipate funding challenges that will adversely impact their ability to
them, the basis for these changes, and        sustain capabilities over time. For example, several city officials said they cannot
the extent to which DHS has                   rely on other DHS or federal grant programs or local sources of funding once
communicated with cities about the            STC funding ends. Unless DHS analyzes risks related to sustainment, works
impact of making changes. GAO                 with cities to address these risks, and enforces sustainment-planning
reviewed DHS documents, conducted             requirements for cities in the program in the future, program participants could
site visits to all cities in the program,
                                              see their radiological detection programs and related capabilities deteriorate.
and interviewed DHS and city officials.
                                              DHS has not (1) fully developed potential changes or documented a plan for
What GAO Recommends                           making changes to the STC program; (2) identified the basis for such changes;
GAO is making four recommendations            and (3) consistently communicated with cities, raising concerns about how the
including that DHS regularly collect          changes will impact them. DHS officials told GAO that the agency is considering
detailed information from cities on           several potential changes to the STC program that would broaden its geographic
program expenditures; analyze risks           reach and scope and centralize acquisition of detection equipment, among other
related to sustainment, work with cities      things, but it has not fully developed or documented these changes and does not
to address these risks, and enforce           have a strategy or plan for implementing them. A law enacted in December 2018
sustainment-planning requirements for         requires DHS to develop an implementation plan for the STC program. The law’s
cities in the program; and clearly            requirements would provide DHS an opportunity to identify the basis for potential
communicate to cities how the existing        changes, and assessing such changes would provide more reasonable
program will operate until a new              assurance that they would strengthen the program. Further, most city officials
program is in effect. DHS concurred           GAO interviewed said that in an August 2018 meeting, DHS provided a high-
with GAO’s recommendations.                   level overview of potential changes and little detail on how such changes would
                                              be implemented or affect city operations. If DHS does not clearly communicate to
View GAO-19-327. For more information,        cities how the program will operate under potential changes, these cities could
contact David Trimble at (202) 512-3841or     face difficulties planning for the future and achieving the program’s detection and
trimbled@gao.gov
                                              deterrence objectives.
                                                                                       United States Government Accountability Office
Contents


Letter                                                                                     1
              Background                                                                   6
              DHS Does Not Collect Information to Fully Track Cities’ Use of
                STC Funds for Approved Purposes and Assess Cities’
                Performance                                                               13
              DHS Does Not Have Assurance That Cities Can Sustain
                Capabilities Gained through the Program, and Cities Face
                Funding Challenges                                                        18
              DHS Has Not Fully Developed or Documented Potential Program
                Changes, Including the Basis for Making Changes, or
                Communicated Their Impact on Current STC Cities                           23
              Conclusions                                                                 30
              Recommendations for Executive Action                                        31
              Agency Comments                                                             31

Appendix I    Comments from the Department of Homeland Security                           33



Appendix II   GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments                                       36


Tables
              Table 1: Securing the Cities Program Obligations and
                      Expenditures, Fiscal Year 2007 through June 30, 2018                15
              Table 2: Securing the Cities Program Expenditures by Type,
                      Fiscal Year 2007 through June 30, 2018                              16
              Table 3: Quantities of Each Equipment by Type Purchased by
                      Cities in the Securing the Cities Program, as of January
                      2018                                                                16

Figures
              Figure 1: The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Annual
                       Program Budget for the Securing the Cities (STC)
                       Program, Fiscal Year 2008 to Fiscal Year 2018                       3
              Figure 2: Photos of Types of Nuclear and Radiological Detection
                       Equipment                                                          11
              Figure 3: Typical Nuclear or Radiological Device Screening and
                       Alarm Resolution Process                                           12




              Page i                              GAO-19-327 DHS's Securing the Cities Program
Figure 4: Excerpts from Securing the Cities (STC) Program
         Sustainment Plans Discussing Availability of Future
         Federal Funding                                                                  20




Abbreviations

CWMD                       Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office
DHS                        Department of Homeland Security
DNDO                       Domestic Nuclear Detection Office
FBI                        Federal Bureau of Investigation
GFAD                       Grants and Financial Assistance Division
GNDA                       Global Nuclear Detection Architecture
NNSA                       National Nuclear Security Administration
PRD                        personal radiation detector
Program                    Program Management Plan for the Securing
 Management Plan            the Cities Program
STC                        Securing the Cities
UASI                       Urban Area Security Initiative



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Page ii                                     GAO-19-327 DHS's Securing the Cities Program
                       Letter




441 G St. N.W.
Washington, DC 20548




                       May 13, 2019

                       The Honorable Ron Johnson
                       Chairman
                       The Honorable Gary Peters
                       Ranking Member
                       Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
                       United States Senate

                       The Honorable Peter T. King
                       Ranking Member
                       Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Recovery
                       Committee on Homeland Security
                       House of Representatives

                       The United States faces an enduring threat that terrorists could smuggle
                       in nuclear or radiological materials to use in a terrorist attack. U.S. efforts
                       to counter such threats are considered a top national priority, according to
                       the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). DHS is responsible for
                       ensuring that equipment and technologies necessary to detect these
                       materials are integrated, as appropriate, with other border security
                       systems. 1

                       According to DHS officials, in fiscal year 2007, DHS initiated the Securing
                       the Cities (STC) program, which seeks to prevent the successful
                       planning, movement, and deployment of a nuclear or radiological weapon
                       and component materials within the United States by enhancing the
                       nuclear detection capabilities of federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial
                       agencies. DHS intends for this capability to be sustained even after cities
                       are no longer eligible for STC funding. Accordingly, the STC program
                       funds the purchase of commercial radiation detection devices and other
                       detection equipment and provides detection training for up to 5 years,
                       after which cities are expected to obtain alternative sources of support to
                       sustain capabilities they developed under the program.




                       1
                           6 U.S.C. § 921a (a).




                       Page 1                                 GAO-19-327 DHS's Securing the Cities Program
Since the program began, the five cities participating in the program have
spent almost $145 million in program funds. 2 According to DHS officials,
DHS launched the program in the New York City, Jersey City, and
Newark area (New York—New Jersey) in fiscal year 2007, 3 then
expanded the program to Los Angeles—Long Beach in fiscal year 2012;
the National Capital Region in fiscal year 2014; 4 Houston in fiscal year
2015; and Chicago in fiscal year 2016. After New York—New Jersey,
each city added to the program was eligible for up to $30 million in STC
funds over 5 years. The agency intends to expand the program to
additional cities and geographic regions and make other changes to the
scope and goals of the program in coming years, according to agency
officials. The annual program budget for the STC program was $40
million at the outset of the program in fiscal year 2008; over the past 4
years, the annual budget has been about $22 million (see fig. 1). 5




2
 We use the term cities to describe the metropolitan regions that participate or are eligible
to participate in the STC program. DHS defines these regions based on criteria in its
Urban Area Security Initiative—a grant program that is separate from the STC program.
3
 DHS obligated 8 years of STC funds from fiscal years 2007 through 2014 to New York—
New Jersey. As the first city in the program, New York—New Jersey was subject to
different requirements than the other cities in the program.
4
The National Capital Region includes the District of Columbia and surrounding areas in
Maryland and Virginia.
5
 We refer to the amount of funding available for each fiscal year for the STC program, as
reported to us by DHS officials, as the annual program budget.




Page 2                                        GAO-19-327 DHS's Securing the Cities Program
Figure 1: The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Annual Program Budget for the Securing the Cities (STC) Program,
Fiscal Year 2008 to Fiscal Year 2018




                                        Notes: In fiscal year 2014, the STC program budget was originally $22 million; however DHS
                                        provided the program an additional $2.8 million in funding for sustainment in New York—New Jersey.
                                        DHS officials told us that the first STC award was made in September 2007, but this award was not
                                        called out in fiscal year 2007 appropriations like awards in the years that followed.


                                        DHS’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) implemented the STC
                                        program for the program’s first decade. During this time, DNDO was the
                                        primary entity in the U.S. government responsible for implementing
                                        domestic nuclear detection efforts to support a managed and coordinated
                                        strategy to counter nuclear or radiological threats. DHS designed the STC
                                        program to be part of the interior layer of the Global Nuclear Detection
                                        Architecture (GNDA). The GNDA is a multilayered framework
                                        encompassing many different federal programs, projects, and activities to
                                        detect and deter nuclear smuggling in foreign countries, at the U.S.
                                        border, and inside the United States.

                                        In October 2017, DHS initiated an intradepartmental reorganization under
                                        which DNDO was consolidated with other offices, including the Office of
                                        Health Affairs, into a new office known as the Countering Weapons of
                                        Mass Destruction Office (CWMD). The Countering Weapons of Mass
                                        Destruction Act of 2018, signed into law on December 21, 2018,
                                        redesignates DNDO as CWMD and directs the establishment of the STC



                                        Page 3                                          GAO-19-327 DHS's Securing the Cities Program
program under CWMD. 6 CWMD’s mission includes additional priorities
beyond detecting and deterring nuclear or radiological threats, such as
defending against chemical and biological threats. To reflect current
operations at DHS, we refer to CWMD throughout the remainder of this
report as the entity that implements or has implemented the STC
program.

You asked us to review the activities, results, and outcomes of the STC
program. This report examines (1) the extent to which DHS tracks cities’
use of funds and assesses their performance; (2) what assurance DHS
has that cities can sustain capabilities gained through the STC program
and the challenges, if any, that cities face in sustaining such capabilities;
and (3) potential changes to the STC program and how DHS plans to
implement them, the basis for these changes, and the extent to which
DHS has communicated with current cities about the impact of making
changes.

To determine the extent to which DHS tracks cities’ use of funds and
performance, we reviewed relevant laws, DHS documents, and data and
information that the cities provided to DHS at our request. Specifically, we
requested that DHS ask for data from all five cities participating in the
program on expenditures made with program funds, and analyzed these
data. We also reviewed documents related to program operations such as
notices of funding opportunities and financial assistance awards, quarterly
financial reports from cities participating in the program, and audits of the
STC program. We did not specifically evaluate whether cities’ purchases
with program funds aligned with CWMD’s approved purchase plans for
cities because some data were not available and because of reporting
lags in data that were available. 7 However, we assessed available data’s
reliability by reviewing related documentation, interviewing knowledgeable
officials, and tracing a selection of data from source documents. Through
these steps, we determined that these data were sufficiently reliable for
summarizing the amount of funds spent on program activities and
equipment purchases by type.




6
    See Pub. L. No. 115-387 (2018).
7
 CWMD issues notices of financial assistance awards to cities in the program, and these
notices include approved budgets—which CWMD officials referred to as purchase plans—
for equipment and other resources.




Page 4                                    GAO-19-327 DHS's Securing the Cities Program
In addition, we reviewed documents related to the STC program’s
performance, such as CWMD’s Program Management Plan for the
Securing the Cities Program 8 (“Program Management Plan”) and
quarterly performance reports that cities provide to CWMD. We also
visited all five cities participating in the program to interview program
managers and local officials and to observe facilities, equipment, and
training exercises. Further, we compared DHS’s implementation of the
STC program with federal internal control standards for control activities
and information and communication, 9 as well as with leading practices
described in our prior work.

To examine what assurance DHS has that cities can sustain capabilities
gained through the STC program and the challenges, if any, that cities
face in sustaining such capabilities, we collected and reviewed cities’
plans for sustaining capabilities once program funds are no longer
available. We also reviewed DHS’s guidance documents for preparing
sustainment plans, such as CWMD’s Project Management Plan and
sustainment plan template. We also interviewed DHS and city officials
about how they were preparing to sustain capabilities developed under
the program and about any challenges they faced or expected to
encounter in the future. For example, we asked the officials about other
sources of funds cities could use for sustainment once STC funds are no
longer available. In addition, we compared DHS’s implementation of
sustainment planning under the STC program with federal internal control
standards for risk assessment.

To examine potential changes to the STC program and DHS’s plan for
implementing them, the basis for these changes, and the extent to which
DHS has communicated the impact of these changes to cities in the
program, we reviewed DHS’s budget justifications and other agency
documents. We also interviewed DHS and officials at other key
agencies—the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department
of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)—that
coordinate with DHS on nuclear and radiological security issues. In
addition, we interviewed city officials about their communications with
DHS regarding making changes to the program, including during our site

8
U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, Program
Management Plan for the Securing the Cities Program (updated May 2017).
9
 GAO, Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government, GAO-14-704G
(Washington, D.C.: September 2014).




Page 5                                   GAO-19-327 DHS's Securing the Cities Program
                       visits to these cities. Further, we compared DHS’s communication with
                       cities about making program changes with federal internal control
                       standards for information and communication, as well as with
                       recommended practices that are described in our prior work.

                       We conducted this performance audit from November 2017 to May 2019
                       in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.
                       Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain
                       sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our
                       findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that
                       the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and
                       conclusions based on our audit objectives.


                       This section provides an overview of (1) the impact of nuclear or
Background             radiological events, (2) U.S. efforts to combat nuclear or radiological
                       smuggling, (3) STC program goals and phases, (4) how the STC program
                       operates, and (5) STC program activities.


Impact of Nuclear or   We previously reported that a terrorist’s use of either an improvised
Radiological Events    nuclear device or a radiological dispersal device could have devastating
                       consequences, including not only loss of life but also enormous
                       psychological and economic impacts. 10 An improvised nuclear device is a
                       crude nuclear bomb made with highly enriched uranium or plutonium. A
                       radiological dispersal device —frequently referred to as a dirty bomb—
                       would disperse radioactive materials into the environment through a
                       conventional explosive or through other means. Depending on the type of
                       radiological dispersal device, the area contaminated could be as small as
                       part of a building or a city block or as large as several square miles. If
                       either type of device were used in a populated area, hundreds of
                       individuals might be killed or injured from the explosion or face the risk of
                       later developing health effects because of exposure to radiation and
                       radioactive contamination.




                       10
                          GAO, Combatting Nuclear Smuggling: Risk-Informed Covert Assessments and
                       Oversight of Corrective Actions Could Strengthen Capabilities at the Border, GAO-14-826
                       (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 22, 2014).




                       Page 6                                     GAO-19-327 DHS's Securing the Cities Program
U.S. Efforts to Combat    U.S. efforts to counter nuclear or radiological threats are considered a top
Nuclear or Radiological   national priority. Federal agencies that have a role in combating nuclear
                          or radiological smuggling are responsible for implementing their own
Smuggling
                          programs under the GNDA. The GNDA comprises programs run by U.S.
                          agencies, including DHS, the FBI, and NNSA, as well as partnerships
                          with local, state, tribal, and territorial governments; the private sector; and
                          international partners. These programs are designed to encounter, detect,
                          characterize, and report on nuclear or radiological materials that are “out
                          of regulatory control”, such as those materials that have been smuggled
                          or stolen. 11 Under DHS’s reorganization, there is no longer a specific
                          directorate in charge of GNDA responsibilities, according to CWMD
                          officials. However, CWMD officials said that GNDA responsibilities, such
                          as identifying gaps in current nuclear detection capabilities, will be
                          distributed throughout CWMD components.


STC Program Goals and     CWMD initiated the STC program with three primary goals: (1) enhance
Phases                    regional capabilities to detect and interdict unregulated nuclear and other
                          radiological materials, (2) guide the coordination of STC cities in their
                          roles defined by the GNDA, and (3) encourage participants to sustain
                          their nuclear or radiological detection programs over time. 12

                          According to the Program Management Plan, for each city, the STC
                          program consists of three phases that provide for the development,
                          integration, and sustainment of nuclear or radiological detection capability
                          by cities to support state, local, and tribal operations.

                          •    Phase 1: Development of initial operating capability. CWMD
                               provides a mechanism for cities to develop initial operating capability
                               to detect and report the presence of nuclear or radiological materials
                               that are out of regulatory control. During phase 1, efforts focus on
                               satisfying the immediate needs of state and local agencies in
                               developing detection and reporting capabilities. This phase of the
                               implementation is expected to take 3 years.



                          11
                             The Program Management Plan defines “out of regulatory control” as materials that are
                          being imported, possessed, stored, transported, developed, or used without authorization
                          by the appropriate regulatory authority, either inadvertently or deliberately.
                          12
                           U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, Program
                          Management Plan.




                          Page 7                                     GAO-19-327 DHS's Securing the Cities Program
                      •    Phase 2: Integration. CWMD provides additional resources to cities
                           to allow them to develop enhanced detection, analysis,
                           communication, and coordination functionality. These resources build
                           on the integration of state and local capabilities with U.S. government
                           activities and the GNDA that existed prior to cities’ participation in the
                           STC program or were established during phase 1. This phase is
                           expected to take about 2 years.
                      •    Phase 3: Sustainment. CWMD provides indirect support to cities to
                           sustain their capabilities. CWMD maintains a relationship with local
                           program operators through assistance with alarm response and
                           subject matter expertise. For example, it provides advice to cities on
                           training, practice exercises, and questions as they arise.
                      As of March 2019, Chicago and Houston are in phase 1 of the program,
                      the National Capital Region is in phase 2, and New York—New Jersey
                      and Los Angeles—Long Beach are in phase 3.


How the STC Program   The STC program operates as a cooperative agreement between CWMD
Operates              and eligible cities. 13 Accordingly, a substantial amount of interaction is
                      expected between CWMD and program participants. A full cooperative
                      agreement package for the STC program includes a notice of funding
                      opportunity, notice of financial assistance award (assistance award), and
                      general guidance documents for the program. It also includes
                      requirements for cities to develop performance metrics for achieving key
                      program tasks, such as purchasing equipment and conducting training,
                      and to submit quarterly financial and performance reports.

                      CWMD seeks applications for the program through a notice of funding
                      opportunity, which lays out eligibility criteria and other requirements.
                      According to CWMD officials, after New York—New Jersey was accepted
                      into the STC program, CWMD opened up eligibility for the program to




                      13
                        A cooperative agreement is a legal instrument of financial assistance between a federal
                      agency and a nonfederal entity that is used to enter into a relationship with the principal
                      purpose to transfer anything of value, such as money, to a nonfederal entity to carry out a
                      public purpose authorized by law. The distinction between a cooperative agreement and a
                      grant agreement is that substantial involvement is expected between the executive
                      agency and the nonfederal entity when carrying out the activity contemplated by the
                      federal award, whereas such involvement is not expected in carrying out a grant
                      agreement. See 31 U.S.C. §§ 6304, 6305; 2 C.F.R § 200.24.




                      Page 8                                      GAO-19-327 DHS's Securing the Cities Program
cities in DHS’s Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) 14 identified as having
the highest risk for a terrorist attack. 15 In the application process, one
local government entity applies as the principal partner for the city (e.g.,
the New York Police Department is the principal partner for New York—
New Jersey).

Once CWMD accepts a city into the program, the city receives an
assistance award, which details the approved budget for the year and
may include an approved purchase plan. 16 DHS prefers that a lead
agency within the city distributes funds or any equipment purchased with
program funds to the other state and local partners, such as police
departments of neighboring jurisdictions, fire departments, or public
health officials, among others. According to CWMD officials, every year
cities in the program must apply for the next increment of funding from the
program; if a city’s application is approved, it receives an amendment to
its assistance award. There is a 5-year period of performance 17—
corresponding to phases 1 and 2—under which the cities are eligible to
receive and obligate funding. CWMD officials told us that they can grant
an extension to cities to obligate the funds if they have not been able to
do so within the original 5-year period. In phase 3 of the program, CWMD
may provide technical assistance or subject matter expertise to cities but
no further funding.




14
 UASI grants provide federal assistance to address the unique needs of high-threat, high-
density urban areas and assist the areas in building an enhanced and sustainable
capacity to prevent, prepare for, protect against, and respond to acts of terrorism. The
Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency is required to ensure that
no less than 25 percent of grant funding is for law enforcement terrorism prevention
activities.
15
 According to CWMD officials, eligible UASI cities not currently in the STC program are
San Diego, the Bay Area, Dallas—Fort Worth—Arlington, Philadelphia, and Boston.
16
  According to DHS officials, when the award is made the purchase plan may be
approved. However, the funds may also be restricted until further details or justification are
received and approved.
17
   The period of performance means the time during which the nonfederal entity may incur
new obligations to carry out the work authorized under the federal award. See 2 C.F.R. §
200.77. The federal agency must include start and end dates of the period of performance
in the federal award. Id. Since New York—New Jersey was the pilot city it was not subject
to the 5-year period of performance.




Page 9                                        GAO-19-327 DHS's Securing the Cities Program
STC Program Activities   Cities in the STC program may spend their funds on nuclear and
                         radiological detection equipment, training, and administrative program
                         costs, among other things. Several types of detection equipment may be
                         approved for purchase.

                         •   Personal radiation detectors (PRD) are wearable radiation
                             detectors, approximately the size of a cell phone. When exposed to
                             elevated radiation levels, the devices alarm with flashing lights, tones,
                             vibrations, or combinations of these. Most PRDs numerically display
                             the detected radiation intensity (on a scale of 0 to 9) and thus can be
                             used to alert the officer of a nearby radiation source. However, they
                             typically are not as sensitive as more advanced detectors and cannot
                             identify the type of radioactive source.
                         •   Radiation detection backpacks are used for primary screening and
                             for conducting wide area searches, according to CWMD officials.
                             These officials said the size of the detector contained within the
                             backpack allows the operator greater detection sensitivity as
                             compared to a PRD. CWMD officials also said these devices are
                             especially useful for screening a large venue for radiological materials
                             prior to occupancy by the public.
                         •   Radiation isotope identification devices are radiation detectors that
                             can analyze the energy spectrum of radiation, which enables them to
                             identify the specific radioactive material emitting the radiation. Such
                             devices are used to determine if detected radiation is coming from a
                             potential threat or from naturally occurring radioactive material, such
                             as granite.
                         •   Mobile detection systems contain larger detectors. Typically, mobile
                             detection systems interface with a laptop computer to display alarms
                             and analysis, and are capable of both detection and identification.
                             This type of system may be mounted on vehicle platforms, such as
                             cars, trucks, vans, boats, or helicopters.
                         Figure 2 shows examples of such equipment.




                         Page 10                               GAO-19-327 DHS's Securing the Cities Program
Figure 2: Photos of Types of Nuclear and Radiological Detection Equipment




Such equipment and associated training are the basis for the capability
provided through the STC program. Officials we interviewed in one STC
city told us that in order to operate the equipment, law enforcement, fire,
health, and other state and local personnel must take training on the
process for screening and for resolving alarms related to suspected
nuclear or radiological material. As shown in figure 3, primary screening is
the first step of the process: if an officer is able to determine the source of
the alarm and deems it a nonthreat, then the case is resolved. According
to CWMD officials, PRDs often detect nuclear or radiological materials
that do not actually pose threats, such as radiation from medical



Page 11                                GAO-19-327 DHS's Securing the Cities Program
                                        treatments and from naturally occurring substances such as granite. An
                                        officer who is not able to determine the source of the alarm should initiate
                                        a secondary screening process; according to CWMD officials, secondary
                                        screening varies by locality. Officers with advanced training conduct
                                        secondary screening by using equipment such as radiological isotope
                                        identification devices to identify the type of source material detected.

Figure 3: Typical Nuclear or Radiological Device Screening and Alarm Resolution Process




                                        If, after secondary screening, officers still suspect a threat, they can
                                        contact technical “reachback,” which is a system that puts officers on the
                                        ground in communication with off-site specialists and resources. This
                                        technical reachback can provide greater expertise, including the ability to
                                        analyze the energy spectrum detected during screening and improve
                                        identification of the source and nature of the potential threat. CWMD
                                        officials said that the technical reachback may occur at the state and local
                                        or national level. State and local technical reachback procedures may
                                        vary, but national level technical reachback is standardized with 24-hour




                                        Page 12                                 GAO-19-327 DHS's Securing the Cities Program
                             call centers run by the Department of Energy or U.S. Customs and Border
                             Protection.

                             According to CWMD officials, at any point in the screening process, if a
                             secondary screening device is utilized, it is standard protocol for the
                             officer to alert the FBI of the incident. If a threat is suspected, the FBI can
                             deploy a team that is trained to respond to such a threat.


                             DHS’s CWMD does not collect information to fully track cities’ use of STC
DHS Does Not                 funds for approved purposes and to assess the cities’ performance in the
Collect Information to       program. Specifically, CWMD tracks cities’ spending 18 using program
                             funds and some performance data through quarterly reports that it
Fully Track Cities’          collects from cities, but does not collect other key data to track itemized
Use of STC Funds for         expenditures and to assess how effectively cities achieved key
                             performance metrics and program milestones or how they performed in
Approved Purposes            exercises or drills that simulate a nuclear or radiological threat.
and Assess Cities’
Performance
CWMD Tracks Some             CWMD tracks cities’ spending using program funds through quarterly
Spending Data but Does       financial reports it collects from cities, according to CWMD officials, but
                             does not collect other key data to ensure that funds are spent for
Not Collect Data to Ensure
                             approved purposes and not spent on unrelated program activities.
That Funds Are Spent as      Specifically, CWMD provides each city eligible for additional funding an
Approved                     assistance award every year that includes an approved budget for
                             spending categories such as program staff and equipment, but CWMD
                             officials told us that CWMD does not track itemized expenditures to
                             ensure that program funds were spent according to this budget.
                             According to CWMD’s program agreements with cities, 19 cities must have
                             written approval from DHS in advance of spending obligated program
                             funds for all equipment purchases in the amount of $5,000 or more per
                             unit cost. 20 However, CWMD officials told us that because of time and

                             18
                              We use the term “spending” interchangeably with “expenditures” to mean charges made
                             by a nonfederal entity to a project or program for which a federal award was received. 2
                             C.F.R. § 200.34.
                             19
                                We refer to CWMD’s cooperative agreements and associated documents with cities as
                             program agreements.
                             20
                                  This requirement is contained in CWMD’s notices of funding opportunity.




                             Page 13                                       GAO-19-327 DHS's Securing the Cities Program
resource constraints, they do not collect data that cities maintain in their
internal systems on the expenditures they actually made with program
funds, even though CWMD’s program agreements with cities typically
specify that CWMD or DHS’s Grants and Financial Assistance Division
(GFAD) may access these data at any time. 21

Furthermore, although GFAD officials told us that CWMD, in conjunction
with the Grants Officer at GFAD, has the authority to conduct
programmatic and financial audits and site visits to cities, these audits are
infrequent and limited in their ability to ensure that cities’ expenditures
were in accordance with CWMD’s approved purchase plans, which take
into account program goals and objectives. According to these officials, in
the program’s history, GFAD has conducted a total of two desk audits in
two STC cities—New York—New Jersey and Los Angeles—Long Beach.
GFAD initiated these two audits in 2015 and, according to GFAD officials,
examined a small random sample of purchases. GFAD officials said they
do not currently plan to conduct any additional audits in STC cities
because of resource constraints.

The extent of CWMD’s tracking of cities use of STC program funds is not
consistent with federal internal control standards, which state that
program management should design control activities to achieve
objectives, such as comparing actual performance to planned or expected
results and analyzing significant differences. However, according to
CWMD officials, CWMD does not compare information on expenditures to
cities’ approved purchase plans. As a result, DHS does not know the
dollar amounts cities actually spent on program purchases. By regularly
collecting detailed information from cities on expenditures made using
program funds and comparing that information to approved purchase
plans, CWMD would have greater assurance that cities spent funds as
approved and that the expenditures are in keeping with program goals
and objectives.

Because CWMD does not regularly collect or maintain data on how cities
spent program funds, we requested that it ask cities for these data and
provide them for our review. Table 1 summarizes STC program funds
obligated to and spent by each city and shows that New York—New
Jersey spent about three-quarters of all STC funds—about $110 million of

21
 According to CWMD officials, GFAD is responsible for executing CWMD’s cooperative
agreements with the cities.




Page 14                                  GAO-19-327 DHS's Securing the Cities Program
                                                              the $145 million cities spent as of June 30, 2018. As discussed above,
                                                              New York—New Jersey was the pilot city for the program and was not
                                                              subject to the $30 million limit on program funding. In addition to program
                                                              funds, CWMD provided cities with nonmonetary assistance in the form of
                                                              training, among other things.

Table 1: Securing the Cities Program Obligations and Expenditures, Fiscal Year 2007 through June 30, 2018
Dollars in millions

                                                                                                                                                        Value of
                                              Program                       Program                                          Percentage            nonmonetary
                                       funds obligated                   funds spent            Program funds               of obligated        assistance from
                                                                                                     a                                                b
City                                  by DHS (dollars)             by cities (dollars)      remaining (dollars)             funds spent           DHS (dollars)
New York—New                                          122.8                     110.3                          12.5                     90                      1.3
Jersey
Los Angeles— Long                                       24.5                     15.9                           8.6                     65                      3.1
Beach
National Capital                                        22.4                     14.4                           8.0                     65                      2.7
Region
Houston                                                 18.1                       3.9                         14.2                     21                      1.9
Chicago                                                 10.2                       0.3                          9.9                      2                           0
Total                                                 197.9                     144.8                          53.1                     73                      9.0
Source: Department of Homeland Security (DHS). | GAO-19-327

                                                              Note: Numbers may not add to totals because of rounding.
                                                              a
                                                               According to Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office officials, cities may spend obligated
                                                              funds in future years; DHS’s Grants and Financial Assistance Division communicates to cities
                                                              individually how long they have to expend funding based upon appropriation language and the
                                                              authority of awarded funding.
                                                              b
                                                              Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office officials told us that training funds for the National
                                                              Capital Region and Houston are reflected in nonmonetary assistance.


                                                              These data also show that cities spent most STC funds on equipment
                                                              purchases. Specifically, about two-thirds of STC funds spent were for
                                                              equipment to detect nuclear or radiological threats—about $95 million of
                                                              the $145 million spent. Among the four cities that have purchased
                                                              equipment, 22 the largest equipment purchase category was PRDs, at over
                                                              $40 million. Cities also reported purchasing equipment such as
                                                              backpacks that contain radiation detectors; radiation isotope identification
                                                              devices, which identify the type of radiation that is emitted from a source;
                                                              and mobile systems that detect radiation from a vehicle on the ground or

                                                              22
                                                               According to city officials, Chicago began purchasing equipment after June 30, 2018, the
                                                              cutoff date for our data collection effort.




                                                              Page 15                                           GAO-19-327 DHS's Securing the Cities Program
                                                                 in the air. In addition, cities spent STC funds on training, staff, and
                                                                 contracts for training and other services, according to the data.
                                                                 Collectively, cities spent about 6 percent of program funds on training, 3
                                                                 percent on staff, and 14 percent on contracts for training and other
                                                                 services. (See table 2.)

Table 2: Securing the Cities Program Expenditures by Type, Fiscal Year 2007 through June 30, 2018
Dollars in millions
                                                                                                                                             b
                                      Equipment                       Training                                             Contracts
                                                                                                a
 City                                   (dollars)                     (dollars)          Staff (dollars)                     (dollars)           Other (dollars)   Total (dollars)
 New York—New                                    65.7                          7.0                         3.5                       18.8                  15.2             110.3
 Jersey
 Los Angeles—                                    12.9                          1.6                         0.8                         0.2                  0.4              15.9
 Long Beach
 National Capital                                12.8                            0                         0.1                         1.1                  0.5              14.4
 Region
 Houston                                          3.2                            0                         0.4                               0              0.3               3.9
 Chicago                                             0                           0                         0.2                               0              0.1               0.3
 Total                                           94.5                          8.6                         5.0                       20.2                  16.5             144.8
Source: Department of Homeland Security (DHS). | GAO-19-327

                                                                 Notes: Numbers may not add to totals because of rounding. Cities provided information to DHS
                                                                 based on GAO’s request.
                                                                 a
                                                                  Staff expenditures may include part-time salaries.
                                                                 b
                                                                  Contracts are for training and other services from third parties.




CWMD Tracks Some                                                 CWMD tracks some performance data in quarterly reports it collects from
Performance Data but                                             cities, but it does not collect data to ensure that key performance metrics
                                                                 and program milestones identified in the Program Management Plan are
Does Not Collect Data to
                                                                 achieved. For example, the quarterly reports CWMD collects from cities
Ensure That Performance                                          show the quantities of equipment, by type, that cities purchased with STC
Metrics and Program                                              funds over the course of the program (see table 3), but these reports do
Milestones Are Achieved                                          not show whether the quantities of equipment met cities’ targets for
                                                                 equipment purchases. In addition, these reports do not show how much
                                                                 cities spent to purchase equipment for the program.

Table 3: Quantities of Each Equipment by Type Purchased by Cities in the Securing the Cities Program, as of January 2018

                                                          Personal                                                                                              Radiation isotope
 Equipment type                                 radiation detectors                            Backpacks                         Mobile systems             identification devices
 Total                                                               23,297                                278                                     64                         356
Sources: Quarterly performance reports to the Department of Homeland Security from cities in the Securing the Cities program. | GAO-19-327




                                                                 Page 16                                                          GAO-19-327 DHS's Securing the Cities Program
                            CWMD’s notices of funding opportunity require cities to identify and
                            submit key performance metrics for measuring progress against their
                            objectives and a schedule of program milestones as part of their
                            application to the STC program. According to the CWMD officials, each
                            STC city submitted a Gantt chart—which plots planned activities over
                            time—as part of its initial application. However, over the course of the
                            program, CWMD found this tool had limited value and later gave each city
                            the latitude to manage its program timeline as it deemed appropriate.

                            In addition to the Gantt charts, CWMD officials said they provided cities
                            with templates to develop checklists to document their progress against
                            their objectives and compare their progress to planned actions. However,
                            CWMD officials told us that they view this checklist as a guide to help
                            cities plan rather than a firm program requirement, and cities have not
                            submitted these checklists. Until CWMD requires cities to submit
                            checklists or equivalent information on their progress in the STC program,
                            it will not have complete information on how cities are performing
                            compared to the key performance metrics and program milestones they
                            identified for themselves.


CWMD Does Not               CWMD does not consistently collect information on how cities performed
Consistently Collect        during STC program-funded exercises and drills that test cities’ ability to
                            detect a simulated nuclear or radiological threat. CWMD’s notices of
Information on How Cities
                            funding opportunity entered into after 2007 generally state under program
Performed during Drills     performance reporting requirements that cities must submit operational
and Exercises               reports, such as exercise after-action summaries. CWMD officials told us
                            that they have provided STC cities with a template for preparing after-
                            action reports—which assess a city’s performance during an exercise and
                            include improvement plans following exercises that the program funded.
                            These reports and plans could provide greater insight than quarterly
                            performance reports on the effectiveness of cities’ capabilities.
                            Nonetheless, available performance data show that CWMD did not
                            enforce this requirement and that cities have submitted very few after-
                            action reports. In their quarterly performance reports, the four cities other
                            than New York—New Jersey reported completing 231 drills and exercises
                            but only five after-action reports and one improvement plan. Officials from
                            New York—New Jersey, whose performance reporting requirements
                            differ from those of other cities according to CWMD officials, said that
                            they complete over 100 drills and exercises per year but do not complete
                            after-action reports because of the amount of paperwork that would be
                            required.



                            Page 17                              GAO-19-327 DHS's Securing the Cities Program
                        CWMD officials said that they did not enforce the requirement to submit
                        after-action reports and improvement plans because they felt they could
                        not force cities to report this information. Officials also told us that even
                        though cities are aware of requirements in CWMD’s notices of funding
                        opportunity to provide these reports and plans, cities may be reluctant to
                        complete them because they could highlight weaknesses in their
                        capabilities.

                        We have previously found that a leading practice to promote successful
                        data-driven performance reviews includes participants engaging in
                        rigorous and sustained follow-up on issues identified during reviews. 23
                        Until CWMD more fully assesses cities’ performance by consistently
                        enforcing reporting requirements on how cities performed during
                        exercises, it cannot assess the extent to which cities could effectively
                        detect or deter a nuclear or radiological threat.


                        DHS’s CWMD does not have assurance that cities can sustain threat
DHS Does Not Have       detection and deterrence capabilities gained through the STC program,
Assurance That Cities   and cities anticipate funding challenges once STC program funding ends.
                        Specifically, CWMD has not enforced sustainment planning requirements
Can Sustain             and has taken limited action to help cities sustain their capabilities, even
Capabilities Gained     though encouraging sustainment is one of its primary program goals.
                        Cities anticipate funding challenges that will adversely affect their ability
through the Program,    to sustain capabilities after the program.
and Cities Face
Funding Challenges




                        23
                         GAO, Managing for Results: Data-Driven Performance Reviews Show Promise But
                        Agencies Should Explore How to Involve Other Relevant Agencies, GAO-13-228
                        (Washington, D.C.: Feb. 27, 2013).




                        Page 18                                GAO-19-327 DHS's Securing the Cities Program
CWMD Has Not Enforced     CWMD identified a key goal related to sustainment of cities’ nuclear or
Sustainment Planning      radiological detection program overtime in its Project Management Plan
                          and requires cities to plan for sustainment. 24 However, CWMD has not
Requirements and Has
                          enforced sustainment planning requirements and has taken limited action
Taken Limited Action to   to help cities sustain capabilities. CWMD’s program agreements generally
Help Cities Sustain       require cities to submit plans describing how they will sustain capabilities
Capabilities              gained through the program. For example, some of CWMD’s program
                          agreements state that these sustainment plans must (1) explain how the
                          city will support and sustain STC capabilities after completing the
                          program, (2) describe potential sources of future financial support, and (3)
                          commit to obtaining future financial assistance beyond CWMD support.

                          However, CWMD accepted sustainment plans from four cities that did not
                          identify how they will sustain capabilities once program funding ended. 25
                          Each of the cities’ plans clearly state that they will have difficulty
                          sustaining the program without additional federal funds. (See fig.4.) We
                          also found that three of the four sustainment plans submitted to CWMD
                          provide little detail about the specific equipment or training cities expect
                          they will need after program funding ends. CWMD, however, did not take
                          steps to address these concerns because CWMD officials said that they
                          viewed finding alternative sources of funding to sustain capabilities as the
                          cities’ responsibility.




                          24
                           U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, Program
                          Management Plan.
                          25
                            According to CWMD officials, Chicago, which was accepted into the STC program in
                          fiscal year 2016, has not yet submitted a sustainment plan.




                          Page 19                                   GAO-19-327 DHS's Securing the Cities Program
Figure 4: Excerpts from Securing the Cities (STC) Program Sustainment Plans
Discussing Availability of Future Federal Funding




CWMD officials told us that they provide some ongoing technical
assistance to cities in the sustainment phase of the program, but this
assistance does not include additional funding. Thus far, New York—New
Jersey is the only city of the two cities in the sustainment phase 26 that has
received technical assistance. 27

Furthermore, CWMD did not consistently take steps to ensure that cities
planned for sustainment when making purchasing decisions. As
previously noted, program agreements generally require sustainment
plans. Under CWMD’s Project Management Plan, CWMD expects cities

26
  According to CWMD officials, New York—New Jersey and Los Angeles—Long Beach
are currently the only two cities in the sustainment phase of the program in that they are
no longer eligible for new funding from DHS; however, both cities are still spending funds
that DHS obligated and later released to them in previous years.
27
  CWMD officials told us that in 2016—2 years after New York—New Jersey entered the
sustainment phase—CWMD provided support to the New York Police Department for a
full-scale test exercise of radiological equipment. It has also provided support to the
department through its Testing and Acquisitions Directorate, which can give cities data
regarding the capabilities and performance of different types of equipment to inform
purchasing decisions.




Page 20                                      GAO-19-327 DHS's Securing the Cities Program
                            to submit those sustainment plans to CWMD within 24 months of their
                            initial award date. However, New York—New Jersey and Los Angeles—
                            Long Beach did not submit their sustainment plans until many years after
                            they began to receive STC funding. New York—New Jersey, for example,
                            did not submit a draft sustainment plan until 2015, nearly 8 years after the
                            city initially received funding because CWMD did not include a
                            sustainment plan requirement for the city until its award for fiscal year
                            2011 and allowed 36 months to complete a sustainment plan. Similarly,
                            Los Angeles—Long Beach did not submit a draft sustainment plan until
                            2017—5 years after the city initially received funding. In its program
                            agreement with Los Angeles—Long Beach, CWMD required that a
                            sustainment plan be submitted within 18 months of the award date, but
                            CWMD did not enforce this requirement and accepted a sustainment plan
                            from Los Angeles—Long Beach that was significantly delayed. It is
                            unclear whether New York—New Jersey and Los Angeles—Long Beach
                            ever finalized their draft sustainment plans.

                            CWMD identified sustainment as a program goal but has not enforced its
                            own requirements related to this goal or taken steps to analyze the risks
                            sustainment challenges pose to its program’s success. Federal internal
                            control standards state that program management should identify,
                            analyze, and respond to risks related to achieving the defined objectives.
                            Unless CWMD analyzes risks related to sustainment, works with cities to
                            address these risks, and enforces sustainment planning requirements for
                            cities that join the program in the future, program participants could see
                            their radiological detection programs and related capabilities deteriorate
                            over time.


Cities Anticipate Funding   Officials from all five cities raised concerns to us about their ability to
Challenges to Sustaining    maintain capabilities over time without a dedicated source of funding once
                            STC program funding ends. For example, New York—New Jersey
Capabilities
                            officials told us that they informed CWMD they would not be able to
                            maintain capabilities past 2021 without additional funds. Houston
                            conducted an analysis of the funds needed to sustain the program and
                            estimated that it would generally need over $1 million per year, primarily
                            to replace equipment. City officials also said that they are already
                            experiencing challenges that will have implications for funding and
                            sustainment of the program. For example, Chicago officials said they are
                            facing challenges regarding funding for training. These officials said
                            CWMD told them that the company that conducted training in the other
                            STC cities—at no cost to those cities—will no longer be the designated
                            training entity. But a new training company has not been put in place.


                            Page 21                              GAO-19-327 DHS's Securing the Cities Program
CWMD has not communicated a new plan for training Chicago’s officers
on equipment that has already been purchased, and Chicago officials told
us that they do not have additional funds to purchase training. Chicago
officials said that if they do not receive future years of funding to conduct
training on the already-purchased equipment, their planned capabilities
could go to waste.

According to several city officials, cities cannot rely on other DHS grant
programs or federal grant programs or local sources of funding to sustain
the STC program. Specifically, the officials said that cities’ ability to obtain
funds from DHS’s UASI for sustainment may be limited, 28 in part because
of ineligibility by some partner agencies within an STC city. For example,
law enforcement agencies in Santa Ana, California, received support from
the STC program as part the Los Angeles—Long Beach city region, but
they would not be eligible for UASI funds because Santa Ana is not in the
Los Angeles—Long Beach UASI region. Moreover, UASI funds may not
be sufficient to meet demand from cities. Houston city officials said that in
fiscal year 2017, the city had requested $40 million in UASI funds from
the UASI Committee, which distributes UASI funds in each city. But the
committee had only $23 million to disperse to Houston. According to
CWMD officials, other DHS grant programs within the Federal Emergency
Management Agency—such as the Homeland Security Grant Program—
may not provide a guaranteed source of consistent funding. Further,
CWMD, NNSA, FBI, and city officials that we interviewed said they were
not aware of any other federal grant program that cities could utilize to
sustain nuclear or radiological detection capabilities. At a local level,
several city officials said that there are competing funding priorities, such
as preventing school shootings and addressing the opioid crisis, that
require more money and attention because they affect the local
community more directly every day.




28
   UASI is a DHS grant program run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
UASI provides grants to urban areas to address the unique multidisciplinary planning,
operations, equipment, and training and exercise needs of high-threat, high-density urban
areas and to assist in building and sustaining capabilities related to terrorism prevention,
protection, mitigation, response, and recovery. Cities can use UASI funds for a variety of
initiatives, ranging from community resiliency and recovery to public health to
cybersecurity.




Page 22                                      GAO-19-327 DHS's Securing the Cities Program
                           DHS has not (1) fully developed potential changes or documented a plan
DHS Has Not Fully          for making changes to the STC program; (2) identified the basis for such
Developed or               changes; and (3) clearly communicated with the cities, raising concerns
                           about how the changes will impact them.
Documented
Potential Program
Changes, Including
the Basis for Making
Changes, or
Communicated Their
Impact on Current
STC Cities
CWMD Has Not Fully         CWMD officials told us that the agency is considering several potential
Developed or Documented    changes to the STC program that would broaden its geographic reach
                           and scope, but it has not fully developed or documented these changes
Potential Changes to the
                           and does not have a strategy or plan for implementing them. According to
STC Program and Does       these officials, CWMD has not made any final decisions about potential
Not Have a Strategy or     changes and therefore has not developed any formal strategic
Plan for Implementing      documents. Based on our interviews with CWMD and city officials and
Them                       some limited information in DHS’s fiscal year 2019 budget justification, we
                           found that CWMD is considering making the following changes to the
                           STC program:

                           •   New program goals. CWMD officials told us that the STC program’s
                               new goals would be to (1) enhance regional capabilities to detect,
                               analyze, report, and interdict nuclear and other radioactive threats; (2)
                               provide defense in large geographic regions; and (3) maximize
                               deployment of detection equipment to nonfederal agencies to support
                               federal nuclear detection priorities. The first program goal is one of the
                               original program goals. However, CWMD officials said that under this
                               proposal, CWMD would no longer include encouraging cities to
                               sustain capabilities over time as a program goal because CWMD has
                               discussed centralizing acquisition of detection equipment.
                           •   Expansion of the program’s geographic coverage. Although
                               legacy cities would still receive support under the new version of the
                               STC program, CWMD officials said that the new program would
                               provide national coverage and would include detection and deterrence
                               activities in regions well outside of cities that UASI identified as having


                           Page 23                               GAO-19-327 DHS's Securing the Cities Program
     the highest level of threat and risk for a terrorist attack. 29 Prior to
     proposing this change, CWMD had included in DHS’s fiscal year 2018
     budget justification its intent to select a sixth and seventh city to
     participate in the program by the end of fiscal year 2018, which
     CWMD officials told us did not occur. In DHS’s fiscal year 2019
     budget justification, CWMD stated its intent to support the
     development of nuclear or radiological detection capability for broader
     regions.
•    Centralized acquisition of detection equipment. Instead of
     providing funding to STC cities to purchase detection equipment
     directly, CWMD officials told us that they would plan to centralize the
     acquisition process and purchase equipment on behalf of cities and
     regions. CWMD officials told us that they expect most of this
     equipment to be PRDs.
•    A greater role for other agencies. CWMD officials said that although
     the STC program would remain a CWMD-only program, CWMD
     expects to work closely with the FBI, NNSA, and other DHS
     components, such as the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Customs and
     Border Protection, to detect and deter nuclear or radiological threats.
     Currently, according to CWMD officials, CWMD is working with the
     FBI and NNSA on a Domestic Detection Concept of Operations to
     coordinate their capabilities and functions. In addition, CWMD officials
     said that they plan to align the STC program with the existing FBI
     stabilization program, which responds to nuclear or radiological
     threats that have been detected. 30 According to CWMD officials,
     CWMD would rely on FBI-led stabilization teams for guidance on
     selecting and distributing detection equipment for the STC program.
     Each stabilization team would have a partner STC program office to
     test, calibrate, and distribute detection equipment and to train
     operators, and the STC program would provide funding to cities to
     maintain these offices.
•    Inclusion of chemical and biological weapon detection and
     deterrence within the program’s scope. The Countering Weapons

29
   The Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Act of 2018 requires the Secretary of
Homeland Security to designate jurisdictions eligible for STC funds among UASI program
cities.
30
  Among other things, the FBI stabilization program consists of stabilization teams
composed of FBI officials and state and local bomb technicians in more than a dozen
locations, according to FBI officials. NNSA officials said NNSA also invests in these teams
by providing training and equipment.




Page 24                                     GAO-19-327 DHS's Securing the Cities Program
     of Mass Destruction Act of 2018 includes chemical and biological
     weapon detection and deterrence under the scope of CWMD but
     limits the STC program to detecting and deterring nuclear or
     radiological threats. CWMD officials told us that they had planned to
     add chemical and biological detection and deterrence efforts to the
     STC program, but such a change would now require a statutory
     change.
The changes that CWMD is considering making to the STC program
would be significant in scope. However, CWMD officials confirmed that
CWMD has not documented these potential changes for key
stakeholders, such as cities or partner agencies or provided strategic
documents to describe how it plans to implement any changes. FBI
officials we interviewed said that although the FBI supports greater
coordination between CWMD and FBI-led stabilization teams, these
programs will remain distinct and independent, with separate and
dedicated lines of funding and personnel. These officials also said that
CWMD and the FBI will not share equipment or technicians. According to
NNSA officials, there is no new role defined for NNSA in the STC
program, although NNSA leadership has asked its Radiological
Assistance Program 31 to contribute to the STC program where possible. 32
NNSA officials also said that NNSA and CWMD will continue to
coordinate on how information flows at a federal level if a nuclear or
radiological threat has been detected.

CWMD officials told us that they first introduced potential program
changes to five STC cities at a meeting in February 2018 and met with
leadership from these cities in August 2018 to discuss these changes
further. In November 2018, we contacted officials from the STC cities to
determine whether they understood how the STC program would
continue. Officials from the STC cities made statements that indicated
confusion and uncertainty about the future of the program. For example:

•    Officials from one city told us they believed that changes to the STC
     program would apply only to new cities joining the program, even


31
   NNSA’s Radiological Assistance Program provides advice and radiological assistance
for incidents involving radioactive materials that pose a threat to the public or the
environment.
32
  For example, NNSA officials said that NNSA would help inform equipment options for
state and local partners in the STC program.




Page 25                                    GAO-19-327 DHS's Securing the Cities Program
     though CWMD officials told us that the changes would affect all cities
     going forward.
•    Officials in another city told us that they left the August meeting with
     the impression that the changes presented were only preliminary
     proposals up for discussion and that the program could evolve in any
     number of directions. However, documents CWMD provided to us
     during interviews show CWMD’s intention to make several of the
     specific changes described above, even though the agency’s
     proposals for the STC program have not yet been finalized.
•    Officials in most cities told us they believed that CWMD may provide
     them separate funding under the new program for sustaining
     capabilities developed to date, but CWMD officials told us that no final
     decisions had been made regarding future support for legacy cities.
Most city officials we interviewed said that the August meeting provided a
high-level overview of potential changes and little detail on how such
changes would be implemented or affect city operations.

Our past work has discussed the importance of strategic planning. 33 We
have reported that, among other things, strategic plans should clearly
define objectives to be accomplished and identify the roles and
responsibilities for meeting each objective. By developing a written
strategic plan (or implementation plan) for any potential changes to the
STC program, CWMD would provide clarity on what specific changes are
planned and how CWMD plans to implement them. For example, given
the uncertainty around the future direction of the program, a written
strategy would help shed light on the exact role that CWMD envisions for
partner federal agencies and how it plans to utilize these partnerships to
acquire and distribute equipment.

In October 2018, we briefed staff on the Senate Committee on Homeland
Security and Governmental Affairs and House Committee on Homeland
Security on our ongoing work, including our preliminary findings on the
benefits of (1) developing an implementation plan for potential changes to

33
 GAO, Managing for Results: Enhancing Agency Use of Performance Information for
Management Decision Making, GAO-05-927 (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 9, 2005); Results-
Oriented Government: Practices That Can Help Enhance and Sustain Collaboration
among Federal Agencies, GAO-06-15 (Washington, D.C.: Oct. 21, 2005); Combating
Terrorism: Observations on National Strategies Related to Terrorism, GAO-03-519T
(Washington, D.C.: Mar. 3, 2003); and Executive Guide: Effectively Implementing the
Government Performance and Results Act, GAO/GGD-96-118 (Washington, D.C.: June
1996).




Page 26                                  GAO-19-327 DHS's Securing the Cities Program
                            the STC program and (2) assessing the effect of changes on the
                            program. The recent Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Act of
                            2018, signed into law on December 21, 2018, requires that CWMD
                            develop an implementation plan that among other things, identifies the
                            goals of the program and provides a strategy for achieving those goals.
                            The act requires CWMD to submit this implementation plan to Congress
                            by December 21, 2019. In addition, the law requires a subsequent report
                            assessing effectiveness and proposing changes for the program, which
                            could provide clarity on how proposed changes would align with STC
                            program strategy and how CWMD plans to implement them. CWMD is
                            also required to consult with and provide information to appropriate
                            congressional committees before making any changes to the STC
                            program, including an assessment of the effect of the changes on the
                            capabilities of the STC program.


CWMD Has Not Identified     CWMD has not identified a clear basis for making program changes, and
a Clear Basis for Program   the extent to which these changes can be attributed to new priorities
                            under DHS’s reorganization is unclear. CWMD officials told us that they
Changes
                            have not conducted any studies or analyses that would justify making
                            changes to the program. In DHS’s fiscal year 2019 budget justification,
                            CWMD discussed the importance of using the STC program to build
                            capabilities far outside the immediate target areas, (i.e., cities) and the
                            need to detect threats along the air, land, or sea pathways into and within
                            the country that terrorists could potentially use to reach their targets.
                            However, according to CWMD officials, CWMD has not identified a
                            change in the nature or level of nuclear or radiological threats to explain
                            its intent to move from its original city-focused model for the STC program
                            to a more national approach. In addition, as stated above, CWMD does
                            not collect information to fully assess the performance of cities currently in
                            the program and therefore does not have a performance-based rationale
                            for changing its program goals. CWMD officials said that the uncertainty
                            surrounding making changes reflect a program under transition within an
                            agency under transition—that is, the reorganization from DNDO to
                            CWMD.

                            The Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Act of 2018 requires that
                            before making changes to the STC program, the Assistant Secretary of
                            CWMD brief appropriate congressional committees about the justification
                            for proposed changes. This briefing is to include, among other things, an
                            assessment of the effect of changes, taking into consideration previous
                            resource allocations and stakeholder input. This new requirement would
                            provide DHS an opportunity to identify the basis for potential changes.


                            Page 27                               GAO-19-327 DHS's Securing the Cities Program
                           Assessing such changes could provide more reasonable assurance that
                           they would strengthen the program and not result in unintended
                           consequences, such as reducing capabilities in current cities.


CWMD Has Not Clearly       CWMD has not clearly communicated with the cities currently in the STC
Communicated with the      program about the status of potential program changes, raising concerns
                           among these cities about how the changes will impact them. Although
Cities, Raising Concerns
                           CWMD officials told us that the STC program would still support cities
about How Potential        currently in the program, CWMD has not communicated to cities the
Program Changes Will       levels of funding or other resources they can expect to receive going
Impact Them                forward under the new version of the program. Notably, CWMD has not
                           explained how expanding the program’s geographical coverage would
                           affect cities currently in the program, including any effect on the
                           availability of resources for these cities.

                           City officials told us that they had several concerns, including the
                           following, about CWMD’s potential changes for the STC program:

                           •   Ability to choose equipment that meets a city’s needs. Some city
                               officials we interviewed expressed concerns that the potential
                               changes could detract from their ability to decide which types of
                               equipment and support would best meet their needs. For example,
                               officials in one city expressed concern that their planned calibration
                               laboratory, which is used to maintain equipment, could become
                               obsolete if CWMD chose to distribute PRDs that differ from the type
                               the city currently uses. Furthermore, some city officials questioned
                               whether CWMD and local FBI-led stabilization teams could
                               adequately assess the specific equipment needs of state and local
                               partner agencies within current STC cities. FBI officials told us that
                               they do not assess the equipment needs of state and local partner
                               agencies, but instead share information with those partners should
                               they wish to acquire similar resources in order to maintain state, local,
                               and federal capabilities.
                           •   Scope of the program. Several city officials said concerns arose
                               when CWMD requested that STC cities test toxic compound meters in
                               2018, raising questions about the scope of the program. These
                               devices are designed to detect the presence of certain chemical
                               weapons, but the STC program does not include detecting or
                               deterring chemical weapons. Therefore, several officials felt that the
                               request to test the devices was outside the scope of their mission.
                               CWMD officials said that although the meters were not connected with
                               the STC program, it made sense to reach out to the STC cities as


                           Page 28                               GAO-19-327 DHS's Securing the Cities Program
    CWMD already had a relationship with the cities and they were
    deemed appropriate locations.
•   Role of the FBI. Some city officials told us that they had heard from
    CWMD that the FBI could play an expanded role in secondary
    screening in the future, which they felt could be problematic because
    of the FBI’s limited staff presence in field locations. FBI officials we
    interviewed said that they did not plan to conduct additional secondary
    screening in the future; instead they plan to formalize the secondary
    screening process that is already in place in STC cities. According to
    FBI officials, the bureau would always respond to situations requiring
    a threat assessment.
•   Effect on future funding, including for sustainment activities.
    CWMD recently informed National Capitol Region officials that they
    would not receive an expected fifth year of funding because of
    planned program changes. City officials said that this change came as
    a surprise to them and now they will only be able to buy approximately
    90 percent of the equipment they had originally planned to purchase.
    In addition, these officials said that they planned to use much of the
    fifth year funding for sustainment activities, such as training classes,
    and that this loss would adversely affect their current sustainment
    plans. CWMD officials said that under the new program, CWMD will
    take responsibility for sustaining the nuclear or radiological detection
    equipment distributed to cities, but, as described above, these officials
    said that no final decisions have been made regarding future support
    for legacy cities.
Several city officials said that CWMD had not adequately responded to
their concerns and that there has been less communication from CWMD
about the STC program since 2017 as a result of the DHS reorganization.
Further, several city officials said that they expected CWMD to set up
quarterly meetings with STC city leadership following the August meeting,
but they had not received any notifications about additional meetings.
CWMD officials told us that they intend to have more frequent meetings
with STC city leadership in the future but were unable to schedule a
meeting during the first quarter of fiscal year 2019. Federal internal
control standards state that management should externally communicate
the necessary quality information to achieve the entity’s objectives. If
CWMD does not clearly communicate to the cities how the existing
program will operate until a new program is developed and implemented,
these cities could face difficulties planning for the future and achieving the
program’s detection and deterrence objectives.




Page 29                               GAO-19-327 DHS's Securing the Cities Program
              DHS’s STC program has taken steps to address a top-priority threat to
Conclusions   national security by providing high-risk cities with resources to develop
              nuclear or radiological detection capabilities. However, in implementing
              the program, CWMD does not collect key data to track itemized
              expenditures and to assess how effectively cities achieved key
              performance metrics and program milestones or how well they performed
              in exercises or drills that simulate a nuclear or radiological threat. By
              regularly collecting detailed information from cities on expenditures made
              using program funds and comparing that information to approved
              purchase plans, CWMD would have greater assurance that cities spent
              funds as approved, and consistent with program goals, and that the
              expenditures are in keeping with program objectives. In addition, until
              CWMD requires cities to submit checklists or equivalent information on
              their progress in the STC program, it will not have complete information
              on how cities are performing compared to the key performance metrics
              and program milestones they identified for themselves. Further, until
              CWMD more fully assesses cities’ performance by consistently enforcing
              requirements, as applicable, that cities report on how they performed
              during exercises, it cannot assess the extent to which cities could
              effectively detect or deter a nuclear or radiological threat.

              CWMD identified sustainment as a program goal but has not enforced its
              own requirements related to this goal or taken steps to analyze the risks
              sustainment challenges pose to its program’s success. Unless CWMD
              analyzes these risks, works with cities to address them, and enforces
              sustainment planning requirements for future cities, program participants
              could see their radiological detection capabilities deteriorate over time.

              CWMD officials told us that the agency is considering several potential
              changes to the STC program that would broaden its geographic reach
              and scope, but it has not fully developed or documented these changes
              and does not have a strategy or plan for implementing them. The
              Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Act of 2018 requires that the
              Secretary of Homeland Security develop a strategy and implementation
              plan for the STC program and a subsequent report assessing
              effectiveness and proposing changes for the program, which could
              provide clarity on how proposed changes would align with STC program
              strategy and how CWMD plans to implement them. CWMD also has not
              provided a clear basis for proposed program changes. The act further
              requires that, before making changes, the Assistant Secretary of CWMD
              brief appropriate congressional committees about the justification for
              proposed changes, which should include an assessment of the effect of


              Page 30                             GAO-19-327 DHS's Securing the Cities Program
                      changes. This new requirement could help ensure that changes will
                      strengthen the program and not result in unintended consequences, such
                      as reducing capabilities in current cities. In the meantime, CWMD has not
                      clearly communicated how its proposed changes will impact cities
                      currently in the STC program, raising concerns among these cities about
                      how the changes will impact them. If CWMD does not clearly
                      communicate to the cities how the existing program will operate until a
                      new program is developed and implemented, these cities could face
                      difficulties planning for the future and achieving the program’s detection
                      and deterrence objectives.


                      We are making the following four recommendations to CWMD:
Recommendations for
Executive Action      •   The Assistant Secretary of CWMD should ensure that the office
                          regularly collects detailed information from cities on expenditures
                          made using program funds and compares that information to
                          approved purchase plans to ensure that these funds were spent as
                          approved, consistent with program goals, and that the expenditures
                          are in keeping with the objectives of the program. (Recommendation
                          1)
                      •   The Assistant Secretary of CWMD should more fully assess cities’
                          performance by collecting information from cities on achieving key
                          performance metrics and program milestones and enforcing reporting
                          requirements on performance during exercises. (Recommendation 2)
                      •   The Assistant Secretary of CWMD should analyze risks related to
                          sustaining detection capabilities, work with cities to address these
                          risks, and enforce sustainment planning requirements for future cities.
                          (Recommendation 3)
                      •   The Assistant Secretary of CWMD should clearly communicate to
                          cities how the existing program will operate until a new program is
                          developed and implemented. (Recommendation 4)

                      We provided a draft of this product to DHS, the FBI, and NNSA for review
Agency Comments       and comment. In its comments, reproduced in appendix I, DHS concurred
                      with our recommendations in the draft report. DHS identified actions it
                      would take to address these recommendations, including revising
                      quarterly reporting requirements to include detailed information on
                      expended funds, performance metrics, program milestones, and exercise
                      activities. In addition, DHS said it would engage with cities to procure and
                      distribute equipment and to refurbish or replace it when appropriate, and



                      Page 31                              GAO-19-327 DHS's Securing the Cities Program
would conduct on-site senior-level meetings with all current STC cities to
continue discussions about new procedures, partnerships, and
sustainment of capability. We believe these actions, if implemented as
described, would address the intent of our recommendations. DHS also
provided technical comments, which we incorporated as appropriate. The
FBI and NNSA told us that they had no comments on the draft report.


We are sending copies of this report to the appropriate congressional
committees, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Secretary of
Energy, the Assistant Attorney General for Administration of the
Department of Justice, and other interested parties. In addition, the report
is available at no charge on the GAO website at http://www.gao.gov.

If you or your staff members have any questions about this report, please
contact me at (202) 512-3841 or trimbled@gao.gov. Contact points for
our Offices of Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found
on the last page of this report. GAO staff who made key contributions to
this report are listed in appendix II.




David Trimble
Director, Natural Resources and Environment




Page 32                              GAO-19-327 DHS's Securing the Cities Program
Appendix I: Comments from the Department
             Appendix I: Comments from the Department of
             Homeland Security



of Homeland Security




             Page 33                                   GAO-19-327 DHS's Securing the Cities Program
Appendix I: Comments from the Department of
Homeland Security




Page 34                                   GAO-19-327 DHS's Securing the Cities Program
Appendix I: Comments from the Department of
Homeland Security




Page 35                                   GAO-19-327 DHS's Securing the Cities Program
Appendix II: GAO Contact and Staff
                  Appendix II: GAO Contact and Staff
                  Acknowledgments



Acknowledgments

                  David Trimble, (202) 512-3841 or trimbled@gao.gov
GAO Contact
                  In addition to the contact named above, Ned H. Woodward (Assistant
Staff             Director), Keya Cain (Analyst in Charge), and Alexandra Jeszeck made
Acknowledgments   key contributions to this report. Chris P. Currie, Pamela Davidson, R.
                  Scott Fletcher, Juan Garay, Tom James, Benjamin Licht, Greg Marchand,
                  Cynthia Norris, and Kiki Theodoropoulos also contributed to this report.




(102466)
                  Page 36                              GAO-19-327 DHS's Securing the Cities Program
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