DHS Inspector General conducted a comprehensive review of the Department’s intentional activities and interests. This blog considers the international side of homeland security to be one of the most important dimensions to successfully carrying out the Department’s missions. The IG appears to agree in his new and in-depth investigation of DHS international affairs. Coupled with a rare study of the Department’s global efforts, this new report offers a number of recommendations for improving the institutional capacity of DHS to meet its important international objectives.
I’ve been looking at this issue since 2004 and subsequently wrote a short paper with colleagues at the Center for the Study of the Presidency on how DHS can be more creative in tapping into existing networks overseas among allies and distant friends. We focused on creating dialogue based on shared interests and the exchange of capabilities through training and technology sharing. Ultimately, we came to the realization that no significant progress could be made without a strategic plan for DHS international activities. The IG confirmed these findings and in his Executive Summary he similarly calls for a “strategic plan to prepare guidance on training and technical assistance abroad.”
The IG also takes aim at how DHS is managing its interests overseas with an enterprise perspective and management mindset. The report notes that while the DHS Office of International Affairs, led by an Assistant Secretary for Policy, is the chief management entity stateside, the Department relies upon a mix of management approaches to its presence abroad. In some cases, DHS relies upon component staff (CBP, ICE, USCG, etc.) or they’ve named actual attaches to represent the Department. The IG finds that neither version is optimal and that this approach must be strengthened and refocused.
In all, the IG makes eighteen recommendations. They cover such topics as organizational issues, interagency coordination, implications of funding constraints, and tangible (missed) opportunities for more valuable efforts that support U.S. homeland security interests overseas. Where the IG addresses the importance of international training and technical assistance (T&TA), three constraints on DHS are called out:
1. Insufficient coordination among DHS, State, and DOD.
2. Insufficient information about funds available for DHS international programs
3. Uneven commitment of staff by larger component agencies to valuable T&TA initiatives. (IG specifically calls out FEMA, CBP, and TSA.)
T&TA represents the most tangible work OIA and the Department can do in this mission without drifting into operations that are carried out by component agencies and are part of a different debate/analysis. I noted in particular the echoes of previous works by others and posts here on strengthening DHS’s hand in adding value in the T&TA mission area, as well as related interagency coordiantion challenges. For example: