Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

June 25, 2008

DHS Policy Office ’09 Funding Suffers, Strategy Document in Question

Filed under: Budgets and Spending,Strategy — by Jonah Czerwinski on June 25, 2008

The Senate’s version of the FY 2009 spending bill to fund DHS actually provides less funding for the Office of Policy than the Bush Administration requested. The Policy Office was created after Secretary Chertoff came to office as part of his Second Stage Review. Most everyone welcomed the move as only overdue. Today, the Policy Office is a cross-cutting entity operating out of the Office of the Secretary with portfolios such as Policy Development, Strategic Plans, International Relations, Immigration Statistics, and Private Sector engagement, and it houses the Homeland Security Advisory Council.

It is a critical Department function that may someday serve as vital a role as its counterpart at the Defense Department. Like DoD, DHS now creates a strategic assessment of its policies, plans, priorities, and goals for a four-year window. The Pentagon calls it the Quadrennial Defense Review, and DHS is now at work on its first ever Quadrennial Homeland Security Review. The QDR is an influential document that benefits from senior leadership buy-in, Congressional support, and sweat from across the Defense community. The QHSR is off to a rough start.

The FY08 appropriations act funded the QHSR with only $1,500,000. (An additional $150,000 was assigned to the CFO’s office to support the QHSR.) Nearly all of that funding is being spent on contractor support to help the Office of Policy write the QHSR. The current Senate FY09 bill takes DHS to task for this:

The [Senate] Committee [on Appropriations] is concerned that almost the entire request of $1,500,000 for the QHSR is for contractor support even though many of the functions intended for contractors are inherently governmental. Contracting out the job of long-term planning and goal setting undermines the mission and purpose of this Department. Requiring agencies to work together to develop long-term goals was one of the intended benefits of the creation of the Department. Therefore, funds for contractor support shall only be used for administrative and clerical tasks in support of the QHSR.

The Committee is right to be concerned about outsourcing such a critical initiative as the first QHSR. However, blame can be shared. The Defense Department QDR is funded at nearly 10x the amount given to DHS, and the Pentagon leadership is heavily invested in supporting the QDR drafting process with staff from across the services and the civilian leadership. The DHS Policy Office is being given a pittance to perform this QHSR the right way, but the Policy Office is also not supported by the DHS leadership sufficiently to gain the DHS-wide support necessary to staff it up.

In my meetings with Chertoff this year I’ve asked about the QHSR nearly every time. His response indicates a downplayed priority. It could be because the QHSR will benefit the next Administration more than the current one, but the process needs to be institutionalized and supported for the long-term success of the Department. Let’s hope that over the course of the appropriations negotiations we see an elevated profile – as well as higher funding – for the QHSR initiative.

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Comment by Jason

June 25, 2008 @ 8:24 am

I would not be as concerned about the fact that the $1.5M is going primarily to contractor support. In the grand scheme of things, you’re going to need that expert facilitation, not to generate the long-term planning and goal setting, but to get the conference rooms, get people’s calendars aligned, invite briefers and outside experts to give discussions, get the interim meeting notes drafted, get the reports drafted, etc etc. The DHS components should use their own internal funds to actually do the heavy lifting. Since DHS appears set on copying DOD, that is what the Services do in reference to the QDR.

Comment by William R. Cumming

June 28, 2008 @ 7:46 am

It continues to be of interest to me that failed DOD models still find influence at DHS. Probably as a rapidly developing second career agency (and remember none other than Frank Carlucci called the Office of Emergency Preparedness -1962-73 an “Old Soldiers Home” when breaking up OEP under Nixon’s Reorg Plan No. 1 of 1973) it should find out first why the dOD system is failing by reading GAO and other Congressional reports and then adopt make its own mistakes. The inherently governmental restriction comes originally from OMB guidance and has long since lost its lustre under the Bush Administration. Even Congressional inquiries often answered directly by contractors who naturally find no problemo when assigned to answer the Congressional inquiring. Congress to blame here unless you want to argue the Executive Branch inherently should be able to develop and adopt policies without contractor input. Unlikely under the currently destroyed civil service and merit protection regime. By the way just a post-it but the MSPB is run almost entirely by the Excepted Service and this was approved by President Jimmy Carter who actually relished destroying the civil service system. He saddled the horse and the Republicans rode it out of town. Thanks Jimmy.

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