Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

July 25, 2006

New report looks at personnel reform and the Homeland Security Act

Filed under: Organizational Issues — by Christian Beckner on July 25, 2006

Stephen Barr writes today in his Federal Diary column at the Washington Post about a new report from the Naval Postgraduate School that provides a case study of the proposed civil service reforms that were debated in the process of passing of the Homeland Security Act of 2002. A lot of this story has been told in bits and pieces already, but it contains a few new wrinkles, and this is the first time I’ve seen it in a single comprehensive narrative, featuring interviews with many of the principals involved with the process.

The report a number of interesting details, such as the fact that White House officials had a total of five days to write the initial draft of the Homeland Security Act and get it transmitted to Congress, based on a promise from VP Cheney to Speaker Dennis Hastert. And it quotes former OHS & DHS official Bruce Lawlor on the thought process behind the creation of the four initial DHS directorates:

When we originally built the Department, if you think about it, you’ve got information, critical infrastructure protection—that’s two of your functions. That’s one Directorate. We’ve got the borders, law enforcement and transportation security. There’s another Directorate. And emergency response and recovery—that’s the third Directorate. We only had three Directorates when we started. Then the Vice President came along and said, “You’ve got to do something more about bio-terrorism.” That’s the fourth Directorate, Science and Technology.

Overall, an interesting report – Chapter III (the narrative) is definitely worth a read.

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1 Comment »

Comment by William R. Cumming

July 26, 2006 @ 12:18 am

As a former civil servant (actually lawyers are technically excepted service)who once passed a civil service exam (the old FSEE)this is a fascinating and disturbing description of a major event in civil service history. Probably still undocumented is the number of different systems existing in the the components that became DHS, there certainly was not one system being reformed. The real importance of the article is it careful documentation of the drafter’s compulsion for secrecy and rush to get out product. Haste makes waste as they say. Nonetheless, it seems that a simpler path would have been to simply authorize a study for a new system and not make it a quid pro quo politically (this issue defeated Max Cleland for the U.S. Senate)but instead it will earmark the final demise of the civil service. Civil servants typically in past did not give readily to political campaigns (nor are as likely to be strong-armed by their management for contributions) as contractor employees. The government today is a contract dominated environment but one in which the procurement staff of the departments and agencies are completely understaffed and underfunded. Congress did itself in because contractors in reality don’t feel the same pressure to answer Congressional inquiries the same way as civil servants. Thus, even less oversight. The tradeoff was Congress’ to make-more contributions less information. We now see what they got! A ponderous inefficient new bureaucracy and they don’t have a clue as to what is going on. Secrecy rules the day and an educated public and Congress is a virtual impossibility.

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