Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

January 17, 2008

Transition Report and Borders Study Released from DHS Advisory Council

Filed under: Border Security,Organizational Issues — by Jonah Czerwinski on January 17, 2008

This week, the Administration Transition Task Force reported out to Secretary Chertoff and the overall Homeland Security Advisory Council on its recommendations for how the Department leadership can prepare for and manage the first transition for DHS.  Its a rather skeletal report at 9 pages (the remaining 18 pages are appendixes), but it represents the beginning of a very worthwhile process of managing what will surely be a challenging transition. 

 Many people, even the Secretary, are advocating for a depoliticized transition that focuses on the mission.  This report speaks to that with some detail.  Other efforts to manage the HLS transition are underway at the DNDO, the HSC, and even by contractors of DHS (namely the Council on Excellence in Government).


The “Secure Borders Open Doors Advisory Council” — more easily referred to as the SBODAC — also reported out.  This report can be downloaded here. 

UPDATE: Thanks to reader William Cumming for identifying the related story in today’s Washington Post.  Stephen Barr interviews acting Deputy DHS Secretary Paul Schneider about how the Department is gearing up for the transition.  Check out William’s comment on this post for more.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

January 18, 2008 @ 10:11 am

The transition report almost represents non-feasance and mis-feasance by the participants. First of all, even the Department’s FTE strength is no where near the 220,000 figure often used. Second, no discussion of the cultures in DHS with almost 65,000 gun and badge types able to retire in 20 years and then of course the Uniformed Service the Coasties who also have a 20 years and out career. As of TODAY no one knows at the State and local or NGO level whether the National Response Plan is in force and will be utilitized in a major catastrophe. How many of DHS’s FTE’s have been trained to augment and supplement and conduct a major response. In fact, now that FEMA is regionalizing catastrophe plans I count up to 30 different plans that the same federal employees must be fully conversant with and able to operate smoothly. Additionally, the law enforcement cultural split in DHS with DOD and DOJ is again a gaping hole. Very very few DHS employees have been trained or understand how DOD and DOJ will or would respond in a catastrophe and of course even fewer DOD and DOJ employees understand DHS and its various plans.
Additionally, the transition report argues for depoliticization of an organization in futuro when as each day passes more and more politicized and politically vetted FTE are hired. Some estimates are that in FEMA even at Junior levels –GS-9,11.13, and 14 fewer than 10% of promotions are from within. Basically if you were in FEMA before March 1, 2003 when DHS opened its doors you are finished career promotions.
Legally, DHS is a mess. Because no DHS General Counsel has understood administrative law and procedure fully, the following defects in DHS administration occur and all violate various statutes such as the Administrative Procedures Act of 1947, as amended, the Federal Register Act of 1934 as amended, and various other statutes and Executive Branch mandates. There is a basic reason. Defective delegtations of authority and ignorance of statutory mandates and requirements. The 1803 US Supreme Court decision Little v. Barreme held that any citizen could challenge an administrative action by unauthorized persons, thereby establishing that there is no “Color of Authority” doctrine applicable to the Executive Branch. Additional, because of non-compliance with Title 5 of the US Code the Department has failed to correctly identify those positions (and of course most of the appointed staff have no position descriptions) that are so-called “National Security Positions” requiring background investigations of various types. As a result, security clearances are used to manipulate the culture and process in DHS and hide waster, fraud, and abuse. Based on assigned missions, the Coast Guard
should have double its current budget and FTE. Other key components of DHS are significantly understaffed and under funded.
This posted comment could be longer but instead will just ask one question “who did the transition membership contact and was it in writing and did it open its discussion for public comment. This could be a real tragedy for any new administration of whatever party. Clearly, DHS is not capable of doing its job and of course there are reasons. Documentation exists in various OIG and GAO reports none of which are addressed by the transition report. Again the quality of the report should have drawn some minority comments if the membership had any integrity and did not just hope membership might lead to a further position or contract. A feeble effort not worthy of an issue “Homeland Security” that may be the most fundamental to seeing whether our democracy survives.

Comment by William R. Cumming

January 21, 2008 @ 2:15 pm

Today’s (Jan21st) Washington Post Federal Diary has comments on the DHS transition.

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March 22, 2008 @ 2:26 pm

[…] at this point, barring any attack on the homeland in the meantime, will be to shepherd a transition to the next Presidential […]

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March 22, 2008 @ 5:47 pm

[…] at this point, barring any attack on the homeland in the meantime, will be to shepherd a transition to the next Presidential […]

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April 25, 2008 @ 6:45 am

[…] through all the briefing books and guidance documents, there was a recommendation of the Administration Transition Task Force that doesn’t appear to be a part of the current plan. (There are a few, actually, but this is one […]

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