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Homeland Security Inspector General quits; Senate rushes to fill positions

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The Department of Homeland Security and some Capitol Hill Democrats are working to find good news in a devastating internal audit of the government’s largest agency, Watchdog.org reported Wednesday.

Senate Homeland Security Chairman Tom Carper, D-Del., called a new Inspector General audit “a milestone for the Department of Homeland Security and represents an important step in helping the department be a responsible steward of taxpayer funds.”

Others say the report is nothing to cheer about. And with acting IG Charles Edwards abruptly resigning on Tuesday, the audit’s credibility is in question.

Edwards stepped down amid ongoing questions about his performance.

While Carper asserts the DHS received a “clean financial audit,” the IG report leveled numerous criticisms at the sprawling agency.

Auditors accused DHS of “struggling to fully integrate” its 22 different branches, including the Transportation Security Administration, Customs and Border Protection, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Coast Guard.

The audit said the agencies have failed to communicate and don’t work well together, wasting millions of taxpayers dollars and putting the nation’s borders at risk, the Washington Times reported.

In a slap at former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano – now chief of the University of California system — the audit “determined that DHS did not establish an effective governing structure.”

The IG’s office found large gaps in DHS’ own cyber-security programs.

Oklahoma’s U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, the top Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, said the agency’s systems lacked “some of the most basic protections that would be obvious to any 13-year-old with a laptop.”

“DHS doesn’t use strong authentication. It relies on antiquated software that’s full of holes. Its components don’t report security incidents when they should. They don’t keep track of weaknesses when they’re found, and they don’t fix them in time to make a difference,” Coburn said.

David North, a policy analyst at the Center for Immigration Studies, suggested the report could have been more damning if the IG’s leadership weren’t under a cloud of controversy itself.

North noted that Edwards had been under fire from lawmakers of both parties for “whistleblower allegations of nepotism and abuse of power.”

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said last week he intends to look into what he calls “corruption” in the IG’s office.

President Barack Obama last week nominated John Roth to head DHS’ Office of Inspector General. Roth is a supervising investigator with the Food and Drug Administration, a much smaller agency.

Read the full story here.

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