Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

September 29, 2008

Senate Introduces its First DHS Authorization Bill

Filed under: Congress and HLS — by Jonah Czerwinski on September 29, 2008

On Friday, the first ever Senate DHS authorization bill was introduced. Much of this is music to our ears.

The Senate bill elevates the assistant secretary for policy to the position of Under Secretary for Policy, to ensure policy coordination across the Department, it strengthens the authorities of the Office of International Affairs at DHS, and it authorizes the National Cyber Security Center, along with a private sector board to advise the Secretary on cyber security policy.

The assistant secretary of international affairs will be responsible for developing an international strategic plan. Unfortunately, the Quadrennial Homeland Security received little attention. It could have benefitted from added benchmarks in its development and certainly from greater connection to the Secretary.

A significant portion of the bill is devoted to the unexciting, but terribly important, aspects of maturing DHS as an executive agency. For example, see Titles III and IV for language on procurement and investment policies and on strategic human capital, respectively.

Title X introduces a new act entirely. The National Bombing Prevention Act creates a new Office for Bombing Prevention within the Infrastructure Protection division.

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Comment by Arnold

September 29, 2008 @ 12:17 pm

Well, since you so kindly requested comments…

While I haven’t gone through the bill yet, I would guess that the QHS hasn’t received much attention as of yet because there is no reason to get too far out ahead of the next administration on this point.

Any analytical work will be reviewed or revisited by either of the possible new administrations. Especially if Obama wins, there is likely (hopefully, in my view) to be a full review of what the nation needs from the Department and strategically how it will look at the concept of homeland security.

Comment by William R. Cumming

October 3, 2008 @ 5:48 am

It is always interesting to me when Congress tries to fix a bureaucracy by juggling org charts and ranks of appointees. An interesting post might be a quick overview of what elements DHS seem to know their jobs and do them. My top two examples would be the Secret Service and U.S. Coast Guard). Both of course are understaffed and underfunded. Still their basic capability and competence always comes shining through. The list of non-performing organizations in DHS seems much too long for me but perhaps it is just that I don’t understand exactly what they do or how the Secretary DHS views his priorities. The two positions marked for more statutory clout in the post above do indicate high priority areas for me. If they fail, DHS may ultimately fail despite the efforts of some components.

Comment by Arnold

October 3, 2008 @ 6:25 pm

While that would most likely result in interesting results, based only on the examples you provided I fear that the Department is too young to have yet outgrown the legacies of its many parts. The Secret Service and Coast Guard did not improve performance under the DHS umbrella, but brought their previous cultures with them. While CBP is a new entity, the “ingredients” did not have a good reputation before 9/11.

FEMA is in a class by itself. Some maintain that it lost its edge when it was pushed under the DHS umbrella. Others argue that it never really enjoyed the level of professionalism under Witt during the Clinton Admin that conventional wisdom now assigns it.

The most interesting piece would be the new departments–DHS intelligence, the medical office, DNDO, etc. What hasn’t been made is a convincing argument that medical office duties cannot be handled by HHS. Or intel by DNI. Or DNDO by NNSA. The recent Heritage-CSIS report calls for looking at homeland security beyond DHS–but does not address giving current DHS missions to departments with long standing expertise in the relevant areas. Why not? If one wants to develop a homeland security strategy that involves the entire government, it may be worth considering not replicating existing expertise within DHS.

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