Greetings from Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Tomorrow is election day. Immediately afterward, DHS will begin its first presidential transition. In all likelihood, Barack Obama and Joe Biden will win, ushering in for the first time a DHS leadership comprised mainly by Democrats. For a government agency populated by more political appointees than any other agency, this is big news for our newest federal department. Granted, an Obama administration would likely replace a sizeable number of political slots with career professionals, but new leadership at DHS will result in significant change. But what kind of change?
1. How, if at all, would a Democrat-led DHS affect the average citizen?
2. What would be the three major differences between a Bush-run DHS and an Obama-run DHS?
3. What would be the biggest DHS-related challenges facing Obama?
4. If you were Obama, what would you do with the DHS upon entering the White House?
Clark, a Republican who leads Aspen Institute’s Homeland Security Programs, suggests that the average citizen can look forward to a DHS that is more focused “on protecting civil rights/civil liberties, including privacy.” He also cited the likelihood that we can expect private industry to do more to secure themselves and their interdependent critical infrastructure. And, invoking his IG perspective, he hopes an Obama administration would focus “more than this administration has on making programs and operations work.”
In my opinion, specific programs that need to work better include the following:
• DHS International Programs
• Homeland Security Information Network
• Western Hemisphere Traveler Initiative
• DHS Cyber Initiatives
• Secure Freight Initiative
These programs alone account for more than $3 billion in the Department’s program budget and include direct involvement of the following DHS components:
• National Cyber Security Center
• Coast Guard
2008 is becoming another year without an attack on the homeland since 9/11, but other factors overshadow this homeland security success. DHS’s core mission areas remain “high risk.” It was ranked at the bottom of OPM’s list of desirable places to work in the federal government. And DHS is the subject of 157 GAO reports just this year. Each of the programs above have found their ways into the GAO’s crosshairs.
The new DHS leadership team will be challenged to right these programs. If time permits, HLSwatch.com will dedicate a series of posts about what challenges face each program along with highlights of the best solutions. In the meantime, get out there and vote!