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.