DOJ seal

Office of the Attorney General, Washington, DC 20530
July 1, 2003


The Honorable Richard J. Durbin
Ranking Minority Member
Subcomittee on Oversight of Government
Management, Restructuring and
the District of Columbia
Committee on Governmental Affairs
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Durbin:

The first and overriding priority of the Department of Justice (Department) is to protect Americans against future acts of terrorism and to bring terrorists to justice. It is a credit to our new investigative tools - carefully targeted and utilized - as well as the hard work of the law enforcement community, our intelligence agencies and a cooperative public, that we have not suffered another major terrorist attack in this country since September 11, 2001. But we know that a significant terrorist threat persists and we all must remain ever vigilant.

To that end, we continue our war against terrorism and the vigorous enforcement of the laws of the United States. We pursue these critical goals with a commitment to ever-improving levels of efficiency and effectiveness. Therefore, I am pleased to provide you a copy of the Inspector General's Semiannual Report to Congress and apprise you of the actions the Department has taken to address the significant findings of the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). Status information on the management decisions, actions completed, and actions in progress in response to OIG audit reports are available on the Department's Web site and will be updated more frequently than required by the statute. Taken together, this information represents the Department's efforts to identify and correct weaknesses in current activities and provide a road map for improving management and operations. Management improvements are being pursued aggressively in an atmosphere of cooperation with the Inspector General, and we welcome the progress we have already made in many areas.

In the months since the September 11 attacks against America, the Department has worked vigorously to improve information sharing among all levels of law enforcement, enhance our capability to prevent terrorist incidents, and restructure our organizations and operations to better accomplish our mission. As the Federal Government restructures itself to more effectively conduct the war on terrorism, with the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department continues to transition not only internally, but now as a part of the larger reorganization of the Executive Branch as well. The former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) is now a part of DHS and the newly named Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has joined the Department as an integral part of our continued efforts to detect and prevent acts of terrorism against U.S. interests. These changes also impact the Department's oversight responsibilities.

Most significantly, the Department is phasing out its oversight of the implementation of corrective actions by the former INS as that function relocates to the DHS. The Department recognizes the importance of maintaining effective oversight of such actions and is working with the DHS to ensure a seamless transition of information, records, and responsibility to monitor the implementation activities.

We also have worked to provide the DHS with open recommendations that are current, and have made progress in this effort. For example, in my last report, we noted that in response to weaknesses identified in an OIG special report examining the INS's admission of two September 11 terrorists, the INS took immediate steps to ensure that the adjudicators had complete information prior to making their determinations and was developing an automated computer tracking system, the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), to address many of the failings of its current manual system. In a more recent review of the SEVIS, the OIG noted significant progress in its implementation in a relatively short time period; nonetheless, additional work remains to be completed. We will continue to off the DHS our assistance in such efforts.

I am pleased to report that for fiscal year 2002, the Department again achieved a clean, unqualified opinion on all of its consolidated financial statements as well as unqualified opinions on all 10 of the reporting components' financial statements that support the consolidated report. This is an unprecedented accomplishment in the history of the Department, and I am grateful for the diligent efforts of all those who made it possible. The Department is committed to maintaining its unqualified opinion in future financial statement audits and to doing so with increased efficiency. To that end, the Department continues to address the OIG's recommendations to improve its management controls and reporting capabilities.

In addition, the Department is proceeding with its efforts to improve the security of sensitive computer systems and oversee the development and implementation of major Department systems. The Department continues to implement the OIG recommendations contained in its various reports issued pursuant to the Government Information Security Reform Act and believes that their full implementation will significantly enhance our systems' security and support an OIG assessment of the Department's computer security as excellent. We note that the OIG report on the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) management of its information technology (IT) investments concluded that the FBI had not effectively managed its IT investments because it failed to fully implement the management processes associated with successful IT investment. A recent similar finding by the U.S. General Accounting Office related to INS's IT investments resulted in immediate actions by the Department's Chief Information Officer (CIO) to improve his oversight of IT investment Department-wide. Actions taken by the CIO included implementing an improved standardized investment management (IM) process, establishing a Department-level IT/IM oversight process, developing a process to measure the implementation of systems, and instituting a system to review all audit reports evaluating component IT activities. In addition, the CIO has been recently reorganized to properly implement and support increased oversight. These actions should help ensure the improvement of the FBI's IT/IM processes as well.

The OIG has listed several of its reports as being unresolved for more than six months. Most of these reports are audits of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grants and involve disagreements between the OIG and COPS Office related to the COPS authorizing statute and grantee guidance. Theses issues affect millions of dollars in funds provided to state and local law enforcement under these grants; thus, it is important that the resolution of these issues is carefully and fully considered. I am aware of these issues and am confident that the OIG and COPS Office are working together diligently to try to resolve them. An additional, unresolved report involves the Department' s mission critical physical infrastructure. I believe recent efforts by the Justice Management Division (JMD) to develop a mutually acceptable course of action on this report will result in its being resolved and potentially closed by the end of the next reporting period.

Finally, in my last report I expressed my deep concern about the OIG findings related to the Department's controls over weapons and laptops. As I noted at that time, any loss of sensitive equipment is unacceptable. I am pleased to report that the Department is making substantial progress in not only addressing the individual losses identified but more importantly in establishing adequate oversight controls to prevent such unaccounted losses in the future. Since my last report, the JMD, as the oversight body for policy controls over sensitive equipment, has: (1) completed a review of its weapons management programs, (2) issued revised policies regarding the purchase of firearms; and (3) developed a revised draft of the Department's property management regulations incorporating component comments. This document is currently under review prior to final issuance.

As Attorney General, I have pledged to confront injustice by leading a professional Justice Department that is free from politics, defined by integrity and dedicated to upholding the rule of law. I am continuing to pursue aggressively a timely and efficient process of audit resolution, believing firmly that it is a valuable tool to elevating continually the performance of the Department and thus will help ensure that we continue to serve all Americans with integrity and impartiality.


Signature of John Ashcroft

John Ashcroft
Attorney General


May 2003 List of Addressees