What is the basis of the departmentâ€™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. DHSâ€™s apparently inexperienced management appointees have exacerbated the departmentâ€™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.