The National Journal has an excellent cover story this week (update: available now on the GovExec website) that takes the 9/11 Public Discourse Project’s grades as a starting point, and then does what that august body didn’t quite do: name names, and point fingers at who is really responsible for the low grades. Key excerpts from the long story include:
The reasons why homeland security grant allocations have been slow to become risk-based:
But Collins and Lieberman have blocked efforts to attach the House proposal to legislation in the Senate. Instead, the two senators have offered a compromise that would establish risk criteria for distributing funds but would guarantee rural states more money than the House proposal does.
The House and Senate recently had yet another opportunity to change the formula, after the House attached formula language to a bill to extend the USA PATRIOT Act. But Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Judiciary Committee ranking Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont — two powerful conferees from rural states who were negotiating the anti-terrorism law — called the formula change “anti-rural” and got it stripped from the bill.
This is an issue that I’ve harped on previously here.
The extent to which TSA’s woes are the result of congressional tightfistedness:
Congressional Republicans have never really liked the Transportation Security Administration, the new airport-security bureaucracy that they were practically forced into setting up after 9/11. Ever since TSA was established, GOP leaders have tried to trim it back, and TSA hasn’t helped matters much by gaining a reputation for inefficiency, clumsiness, and high staff turnover….
Writing in The Washington Post last April, Brookings Institution senior fellow Paul Light said that by slashing the budget and, in 2003, capping the size of the passenger screener workforce, Congress contributed to a “tailspin” of mismanagement at the agency and “delayed the development of new technologies” to improve passenger and baggage screening.
The root causes of inadequate information-sharing in the federal government:
But that often-cited inability to change the intelligence “culture” doesn’t fully explain the sharing problem. The truth is that law enforcement and intelligence agencies still don’t fully trust each other to guard their hard-won information. For example, the Homeland Security Department’s intelligence unit has faced an uphill battle in prying information from the FBI that DHS needs to provide threat assessments to states and localities. Intelligence agencies have been burned when sensitive information gets shared too widely, Marks says. Sometimes, sources and collection methods are revealed — and sometimes, people die because of it, he says. “Enough bad things have happened,” according to Marks, “that people flinch hard” when they’re told to give up their secrets.
Moreover, some federal authorities don’t accept that they’re obligated to provide information to state and local officials, according to one veteran CIA manager. “The CIA and the Defense Department have their own contacts with state and local officials, but Langley and the Pentagon see sharing information with them as a service (almost a favor) rather than a responsibility for which they can be held accountable,” John Brennan, the former deputy executive director of the CIA, wrote in a November op-ed in The Washington Post.
Overall, the article is a great piece of analysis that gets quickly to the complexity of many of these issues, moving beyond the too-prevalent “let’s bash DHS and leave it at that” attitude displayed by the Department’s critics.