Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

May 4, 2006

CSO article considers “fundamental weaknesses” of DHS

Filed under: Organizational Issues,Port and Maritime Security — by Christian Beckner on May 4, 2006

CSO Magazine has published an interesting opinion piece by Jim Giermanski, a professor at Belmont Abbey College, which blames DHS’s woes on three “fundamental weaknesses”:

What is the basis of the department’s poor performance? DHS was organized primarily to protect the United States from terrorism. But the agency may not have the necessary personnel or structure to carry out its mission. DHS’s apparently inexperienced management appointees have exacerbated the department’s three fundamental weaknesses: a lack of expertise in technology, supply-chain operations and security tradecraft (the gathering and analysis of intelligence). Its dangerously high level of amateurism has compromised its ability to keep our seaports and land ports of entry safe.

Some of the rhetoric in the article is exaggerated, and I think that expertise on each of these issues has improved in the last couple of years. But there is still a long way to go, and as I’ve written before, I don’t think that a serious effort has been made yet to develop sustainable (i.e. non-political) institutional expertise in all areas at the headquarters level of the Department.

Giermanski also discusses the downsides of DHS’s heavy reliance on outside expertise, which can lead to outcomes and solutions that are disengaged from the real world (in the case of academia) or have internal conflicts (in the case of the private sector). I agree that this can be a real problem, but I also think that the opposite outcome – an isolated, solitary Department – would be bad, because DHS needs the constant infusion of creative ideas from all sources. The trick is to get the balance right – finding ways to ensure that DHS becomes and remains an open and engaged Department, but does not become captive to myriad outside interests.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

May 4, 2006 @ 6:32 pm

The biggest failure is that DHS is not a so-called “learning organization.” See writings of Professors Donald Kettl and Charles Wise on Homeland Security.

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 12, 2006 @ 8:02 am

The biggest problem with DHS is the existence of scheister hack rejected FEMA lawyers like myself.

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