Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

July 13, 2007

9/11 Conference Bill – A Second DepSec for DHS

Filed under: Congress and HLS,Organizational Issues — by Jonah Czerwinski on July 13, 2007

To go with the second installation in this series of posts looking into sections of the conference version of HR1, note the provision establishing a second Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security.  A posting here in February detailed a then-newly released report of the Homeland Security Advisory Council on the culture at DHS.  Readers will recall that it included a recommendation for creating another Deputy Secretary, but one for “operations.” 

That report made more hay with its comments about a lack of unity among the ranks coinciding with the release of the Federal Human Capital Survey, which placed DHS at the bottom of the list measuring its performance culture.  However, its recommendation for a Deputy Secretary for Operations (DSO) gained enough support in the Congress to find a version of it proposed into law.  Section 1601 of the bill “to provide for the implementation of the recommendations of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States” (read: the 9/11 Bill) creates a second Deputy Secretary for DHS.  This one is charged with a Management portfolio, whereas the HSAC believed a new DepSec was needed to focus on Operations. 

There is a significant difference between these two portfolios.  Title VII of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, which created the U/S for Management, described it as being responsible for: 

the management and administration of the Department, including the following:

(1) The budget, appropriations, expenditures of funds, accounting, and finance.

(2) Procurement.

(3) Human resources and personnel.

(4) Information technology and communications systems.

(5) Facilities, property, equipment, and other material resources.

(6) Security for personnel, information technology and communications systems, facilities, property, equipment, and other material resources.

(7) Identification and tracking of performance measures relating to the responsibilities of the Department.

(8) Grants and other assistance management programs.

(9) The transition and reorganization process, to ensure an efficient and orderly transfer of functions and personnel to the Department, including the development of a transition plan.

(10) The conduct of internal audits and management analyses of the programs and activities of the Department.

(11) Any other management duties that the Secretary may designate.

That has to rank among the world’s most difficult jobs.  The language in the 9/11 Bill elevates the current DHS Under Secretary for Management (now Paul Schneider) to a Deputy level that is implicitly junior to the existing Deputy Secretary (now Michael Jackson).  But managing the finances, IT, and facilities just doesn’t seem like the role that needs elevating at DHS.  The HSAC proposed a new DSO for specific reasons having little to do with human resource management.  Their report states: 

The DSO would be responsible for creating and/or championing strategic initiatives that reinforce the assumption that all efforts should be about “the Security of the Homeland” – not about the Department of Homeland Security….

Originally, the report made no mention of the U/S for Management.  I was asked to read a draft of the report and made a few very minor suggestions.  One was to cite the role of Management Under Secretariat in order to clarify its relative role, which would be unchanged and junior to the DSO.  The text: 

This [Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security for Operations] would also be in a position of continuity to help drive organizational maturation and to reinforce the culture required for the long-term success of DHS and its components. The DSO would be selected from candidates with a strong National Security operations background similar to a Chief Operations Officer…. The DSO would also maintain close coordination with the Under Secretary for Management, whose ultimate role would be reinforced by the DSO’s seniority and Department-wide jurisdiction.…

So what will happen to Section 1601?  There is some saving language that might compensate for actually moving the U/S Management into second in line of succession behind the regular DepSec (Sec. 1601(g)(2)).  HR1 actually changes Sec. 701 of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to alter the responsibilities of the U/S Management as follows: 

The Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security for Management shall serve as the principal advisor to the Secretary on matters related to the management of the Department, including management integration and transformation in support of homeland security operations and programs.

That’s closer to the HSAC’s original intent.  However, the HSAC report also stipulated that this new position should be filled by a careerist, as opposed to a political appointee, in order to instill some continuity and overcome some of the politicized nature of the Department’s image.  The HSAC report went a step further by offering this candid assessment of the workforce challenge facing DHS (in 2006): 

Historically and for reasons of urgency it would appear that much of the decision making within the Department’s headquarters has been made by a core group of trusted appointees. … we recommend immediate efforts be undertaken to … identify, select, formally train and empower Government Service personnel throughout the Headquarters to assume positions for a leadership transition period that should be in effect for at least six months on either side of the November 2008 presidential election.

HR1 offers a second nod to the intent of the HSAC recommendations by imposing (albeit with caveats) a five-year term on the position of Deputy Secretary for Management.  That’s a valuable detail to gain the continuity value, but the responsibilities of this new DepSec could be made more concrete and relevant to the challenge by adding some of the more strategic roles envisioned by the HSAC.  Perhaps something will change in conference.

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3 Comments »

Comment by William R. Cumming

July 15, 2007 @ 9:32 am

Since internal delegations are not kept up-dated by DHSin compliance with the Federal Register Act of 1934 as amended, and the Administrative Procedure Act of 1947, as amended, it is hard to know the current operational setup much less how it might look with another ES-II Deputy Secretary for Operations to go with the ES-II Deputy Secretary and the ES-II Administrator of FEMA. It is not clear even now how many of the subordinate units in DHS have operations centers and principal managers for operations. It appears at least 25 appointees are directly involved in operations during actual incidents and events and they all have unclear reporting relationships and duties. Of course the big operational glitch from Katrina is not yet fixed, the role of the PFO and the FCO during declared disasters although Congress took a stab at it in the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006. Perhaps NAPA should do a study of this issue in time for the next administration. Just to approve a new slot is a waste of everyone’s time and energy at this point. Based on the information provided no one is qualified at this point to fill the new post.

Comment by Jonah Czerwinski

July 15, 2007 @ 12:28 pm

William –

Thanks for your comment. Just a couple reactions:

>>Perhaps NAPA should do a study of this issue in time for the next administration.

Great idea. While I think the HSAC generally does a good job of drawing on SMEs, real experts in public administration would be a great resource in determining how — and if — DHS should undergo further organizational reforms.

>>Just to approve a new slot is a waste of everyone’s time and energy at this point.

It seems to be a national past-time in the area of HLS. Not sure this Section will even survive conference negotiations though.

>>Based on the information provided no one is qualified at this point to fill the new post.

It is a daunting role to fill. The DHS Office of Operations Coordination is led by a veteran Coast Guard VADM named Roger Rufe. He may be a good candidate. His current portfolio aligns well with this proposed slot (if it comes to that), and he seems to have the professional experience called for by the HSAC.

Comment by William R. Cumming

July 15, 2007 @ 5:41 pm

There is starting to become a fundamental flaw in DHS administrative practice. The Coasties are outstanding people but in reality they were long either over-missioned or couldn’t figure out their primary mission. We now know none want to build ships or make “Deepwater” a reality. They really are not sensitive to some of the operational concerns of DHS namely bringing the troika of the State and locals, the DOJ and the DOJ interface together in harness on Homeland Security issues. The Coasties should retire after their 20 years and do something else. Just like the CIA 20 and out program proved disasterous in the early Reagan ERA when we found that CIA skills, just as shipdriver skills, may not translate into the complexity of the military/law-enforcement/EM/State and local world.These are very very tough jobs and those who think they can do it are probably not the ones needed. Let’s face it Admiral Loy flunked on the National Response Plan even with RAND’s help. Now is the vision of the Coast Guard in retirement. Let’s let the Coasties double in strength (PTE) and budget and do their missions of HAZMATS, Coastal Patroling, Safety, Protection of Harbors, monitoring sea-lanes and borders. They are way understaffed. If they are so great they need to run the rest of DHS (and let’s hope its not because they standstraight, say yes sir, and Can Do Sir) but because of depth of intellect and talent they should be infiltratting DOD and the Navy which when the eventual terrorist attacks on the floating cities known as carriers goes down will probably crack wide open. Or it could be the diesel sub fleets of Iran, North Korea, or China. Ask the State and Locals their real opinion of interfacing with the Coast Guard. It is a federal system by design.

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