Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Homeland Security Reform

The NY Times reported today that new Secretary of Homeland Security, former Arizona governor Jane Napolitano, is reviewing major DHS programs to determine their status and effectiveness. Among those programs under review are cybersecurity, Canadian border security, and power plant/critical infrastructure security. Napolitano expressed frustration with the way the Bush administration ran its simulations, and called for a "streamlining" of DHS programs. In future exercises and initiatives, Napolitano wants to emphasize cooperation between federal and state officials in dealing with crises.

The newly created Department of Homeland Security has been one huge bureaucratic mess since its inception after 9/11. This shouldn't come as a shock when you consider that this unwieldly beast was formed through an amalgamation of 22 previously independent federal agencies. Glitches and missteps are always expected in a new venture, but the scope of the DHS venture was huge and a little over 7 years later it is still having major problems. The September/October 2008 edition of the National Security Law Report contained a debate about reforming DHS between Clark Kent Ervin of the Aspen Institute, and James Carafano of the Heritage Foundation. These two are ideologically opposed in a nominal sense given where they work, but both agree on a lot of important reform issues. I will talk about a few here, but if you want to read the whole report just click on the link above.

Money- These two sort of agree on the DHS money issue, but they also differ. They differ in that Ervin believes that a lot more money should be given to DHS while Carafano believes that the budget should stay about the same. They agree in respect to oversight of the money given to DHS. Both think that there needs to be more oversight on what DHS spends its budget on. There needs to be a thoughtful analysis of security priorities, and those priorities should get the money rather than pet projects.

Leadership- Both agreed at the time (the article came out before the election) on what the new leadership should look like. Carafano simply said that the leadership should excel at professional leadership, and be able to build a "world-class organization." Ervin agreed, but in a more specific way. Ervin said that the new secretary should come from a major terror target such as NYC or LA, or should be a high level military commander. He said that a deputy secretary should come from corporate America, ideally a COO of a Fortune 500 company.

I don't think Ervin or Carafano got what they were looking for. Secretary Napolitano is not from what Ervin seems to consider a major terror target. I also don't know if Carafano would consider her to have the ability to build a world-class organization. However, she is from a major border state which brings with it its own serious security issues, and she did run the state of Arizona so I think she is qualified on both fronts. Rand Beers is the acting deputy secretary and he is not the COO that Ervin was looking for. Beers is a career counterterrorism official having served on the National Security Council under Reagan, both Bushes, and Clinton. He's certainly got the counterterrorism experience, but I agree with Ervin here, it would have been a good move to bring some private sector efficiency into DHS in this position.

Congressional Oversight- I couldn't be in more agreement with these two on this issue. According to Ervin, 86 committees and subcommittees claim to have some authority over DHS. This is an unacceptable state of affairs. Ervin and Carafano agree that consolidating oversight is a must if DHS is going to improve.

I'm behind this 100%. Until I read this article, I didn't realize what a mess DHS oversight was. It's no wonder that it has been largely ineffective, and also no shock that it is not spending its money wisely. Consolidating oversight is vital and I believe it will go a long way to improving the department's performance. Carafano says that it should be consolidated under one committee in both House and Senate. That would be ideal, but I'm not sure consolidation on that scale will come very soon.

Restructuring- This is one of the areas where Ervin and Carafano differ markedly. Ervin believes that the agencies under the DHS umbrella need to be widdled down to those focusing solely on counterterrorism. He believes that disaster response should be taken out of the purview of DHS because it detracts from the counterterrorism mission, which he argues should be the only mission of the department. Carafano argues against this saying that restructuring is precisely what leads to DHS's ineffectiveness. He believes that there should be no talk of restructuring until after the first Quadrennial Security Review.

I agree with Carafano here. I think that messing with DHS's structure will only lead to confusion and could compromise effectiveness of the agencies left in the department and those taken out. The formation of DHS may have been hasty and poorly thought out at its inception, but it is what it is now and I believe that trying to work out the kinks would be better than making drastic changes to the structure.

I dedicate this post to my friend, and semi-respected Georgetown professor, Ned Moran (his blog can be found on my links list under "The Cuckoo's Egg") who begged me to enlighten him on some sort of national security issue today.

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