03/28/2008 02:45 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Homeland Security Dept. Plagued By Corruption, Mismanaged Billions

The Department of Homeland Security has wasted and mismanaged billions in taxpayer dollars and is plagued by internal criminal activity, a study released on Wednesday reveals.

Five years after it was created to help coordinate America' security apparatus, the DHS continues to suffer from massive failures. According to a report by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the department's border agencies are rife with crime, its employee morale is at a dangerous low, information technology is obsolete, and several programs are either mismanaged or overrun.

"The Department of Homeland Security is an embarrassment that would be comical if only our national security were not at stake," said Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW. "The agency and its leadership must be held accountable for its failures and pushed to do better."

Within DHS, wasteful spending is seen as ubiquitous. CREW highlighted at least $178 million that was spent on a failed Coast Guard Deepwater program, more than $600 million allocated for unworkable radiation border scanners, and $1.3 billion devoted to a US-VISIT program that was never implemented.

But it's not just the money. The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency of the DHS has been haunted by smuggling, bribery, sexual misconduct, assault and theft of government property by its own employees. As the CREW report notes, rather alarmingly, "The former head of internal affairs at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services thought the problem was so severe that he began complaining to Congress about rampant corruption that he claims remains un-probed".

DHS's out-of-date technologies, unqualified staff, and internal politics are also putting American's safety and taxpayer money at risk. Screeners at a Los Angeles International Airport missed 75 percent of the fake bombs smuggled through its doors by government auditors because of poor detection systems and untrained staff. In addition, CREW recognized at least a dozen officials who had been through the "revolving door" - having been hired to lobby DHS soon after leaving the agency.

As CREW concluded, problems such as these, in addition to the criminal and budgetary issues, will continue within DHS without greater accountability from Congress and attention from the presidential candidates.

"The question now is how will the next administration fix DHS?," asked Sloan. "The presidential candidates must do more than simply complain about the state of the agency. They should provide the American people with a blueprint - just like some have on healthcare - explaining how they would address this national security crisis."