Secretary-designate for DHS, Janet Napolitano, appeared yesterday before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs for her confirmation hearing. While responding to questions from the Senators, she outlined her concept of success should she be confirmed as the third Secretary of Homeland Security. In her words, “speed, skill, compassion, and common sense” are top attributes of success in the DHS mission going forward.
Governor Napolitano offered the following as top priorities for the next DHS Secretary:
1. Create a unified vision for DHS
2. Create a unified culture through consistent guidance on such practices as acquisition and management
3. Recruit the best and brightest for nominees in other DHS slots
4. Complete the work of transition, such as gaining a better grasp of parts of DHS yet unknown to her
In a powerful gesture of bipartisanship and support, Senators McCain and Kyl introduced Napolitano to the panel. Each of the Senators who participated in the hearing – Lieberman, Collins, McCaskill, Akaka, Landrieu, Tester, Voinovich, and Carper – appeared to support the Arizona governor’s nomination. They praised her experience, but the nominee also had a few areas she acknowledged as in need of her immediate attention.
As a border governor, Napolitano brings useful credibility to the border security effort, but she cited the need for her to familiarize herself with the northern border. The Senators raised this frequently, too. She also suggested that the federal government cannot accomplish the homeland security mission without a more inclusive role for the states and localities on the front lines across the country.
The hearing was not without its parochialism in that the Senator from Maine urged “a baseline of [homeland security] capabilities in every state,” the sponsor of the failed comprehensive immigration reform praised the nominee for agreeing with him and expected her to pick up the torch, and the distinguished gentleman from Hawaii requested support from DHS to impose rules on foreign shippers traveling through the island waters.
Other issues the panel raised were spot on. For example, Sen. Landrieu (LA) passionately advocated for interoperable communications for first responders. Indeed, nearly every Senator spoke of that as a priority goal. Border security – specifically including the northern border – enjoyed attention, and so did REAL ID, which was almost uniformly criticized. Cyber security, to be sure, was cited by nearly all as a worthy priority.
What did we learn about the next Secretary of Homeland Security? She is close to the President-elect and consistent with his message of desired change, inclusiveness, and plain smart decision-making for the greater good. She’s able to handle the Hill, and has numerous endorsements from interest groups. But other indicators of her leadership priorities come through in the answers to her pre-hearing questions (all 83 pages of them). From them we can learn a lot. For example, Secretary-designate Napolitano:
• Recognizes the value of the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (see Sections II and III of the pre-hearing questions);
• Hasn’t taken a position on White House management of the policy process viz. the HSC and NSC (see question 8 of the pre-hearing questions);
• Is intent on strengthening the international affairs capacity of DHS (see her response to question 18 of the pre-hearing questions).
Finally, Napolitano’s words on DHS management indicate the kind of professional management priorities she and the President-elect have in store for the Department. Napolitano offers to focus on an approach that:
• Provides structure to strengthen unified organizational governance and enhance Department-wide communication, decision-making, and oversight;
• Optimizes processes and systems to integrate functional operations and facilitate cross-component collaboration, and streamline coordination to ensure reliable and efficient support of mission objectives;
• Fosters leadership that adheres to the core values and guiding principles of DHS in performing duties, effecting progress, and leading with commitment for the mission; and
• Leverages culture and the benefits of commonalities and differences across components to promote cooperative intra- and inter-agency networks to implement best practices.