Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

April 23, 2009

Five frames for organizing Napolitano’s (and the nation’s) complicated challenge

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on April 23, 2009

On Wednesday Secretary Napolitano gave a speech with potentially broad implications. Her audience was the Anti-Defamation League. But the audience was probably less important to the contents of the speech than the timing. Official and media-oriented Washington are now very much in the wind-up to the 100-Day evaluations.

As if preparing for the first big test of the semester, the Secretary is thinking through the questions likely to be asked. “With 22 different agencies, 22 different histories, 22 different legacies—how do you create a department, and a unified department, under those circumstances? And what is the Department’s charge? All these missions. What is its basic mission and what are we here to do?”

She starts her answers with terrorism— and this time she uses the term — as the Department’s first and most important mission. “The issue of terrorism, counterterrorism, in the broader sense is the number one mission of the Department. It is why it was founded, and it is what we grapple with every day.”

The former Arizona Governor then takes up border security making the distinction between “securing” rather than “sealing” the border. In a series of recent speeches the Secretary has emphasized that borders “are almost like living, breathing organisms.” To extend the analogy, the organism has had difficulty with its immune system and is experiencing occasional convulsions. The goal is to stabilize and strengthen the organism; to keep out the bad while nurturning long-term quality of life.

Next on the list is immigration, which may be the issue that put Napolitano on the top of the President’s list for DHS Secretary.  She is especially clear on the issue’s center-of-gravity. “The bulk of illegal immigration into our country is labor migration… So if you’re going to deal with illegal immigration, you have to deal with not only the supply, the workers, but those who are creating the demand, the employers as well. And that has given rise to a shift in focus on immigration enforcement, and that is to really assemble cases against employers who consistently and intentionally use the illegal labor market as opposed to the legal alternative.” 

“Improvement in preparation for and recovery from natural disasters” is the fourth mission priority the Secretary highlights. “Katrina was an eye-opening experience in so many different ways, a tragedy that could have been prevented in so many ways. Nonetheless, our job is to say, all right. What are we going to do so we never have an episode like that in our history again? And what lessons learned, and how do we improve overall our preparation for not just hurricanes but earthquakes, forest fires, all the other natural disasters that can occur?”

“Our fifth and last one is to foster a common culture of unity within the department… I think those of you who have ever been managers of a business or any kind of a large organization, you can appreciate—when the department was formed, it didn’t have offices together. It didn’t have a common e-mail system. It didn’t have stationery. It didn’t have any common purchasing principles, program management principles, all the kind of nuts and bolts you have to have to have a large department with a complex mission move forward. Those things are now in place, and the department is moving forward as one Department of Homeland Security.”

It is difficult to find time to really think. This is true for most of us, but is especially the case for a cabinet secretary. As a result, our senior officials sometimes think out-loud with us in their speeches.  Political and policy speeches were once the output of thinking.  They are now more often an exploratory predicate to thinking.  We should respect the effort, listen carefully, pose helpful questions, and not be too quick with our own unthinking response.

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10 Comments »

Comment by William R. Cumming

April 23, 2009 @ 8:21 am

Okay in a nit-picky mood this AM! First there were NOT 22 predecessor agencies. A number of components came from the same Department. So why not just post a list and get the DHS leadership and Congress to stop using this number. I argue that programs, functions, and activities that had NO staff or funding transferred should NOT be counted. Example, Office of National Preparedness in DOJ, created by AG Janet Reno and never funded or officially staffed. Even the Office of Domestic Preparedness should not be counted seperately from other components transferring from DOJ, for example the former Immigration ans Naturalization Service, Border Patrol, etc were not separate predecessor organization but under DOJ umbrella. By the way DOJ completely screwed DHS in the transfer both staffing and funding wise despite what GAO has reported. And of course the only independent Executive Branch agency transferred in its entirety was FEMA which was then stripped for funds and staff to support things like the operations of Tom Ridge’s immediate office and travel for which no budget existed as of March 1, 2003.
As to the priorities. Absolutely no mention of CIP (critical infrastructure protection) or cyber-security. Two of the principal rationales for DHS to be created, together with domestic intel (also not mentioned).

Comment by Reaganite Republican Resistance

April 23, 2009 @ 10:24 am

All who were left scratching their heads when Obama chose this obedient toady to head Homeland Security now can get a handle on it: a serious appointee, focused upon real terrorist threats (not imaginary, partisan ones i.e. the TEA parties) -like, say, a Rudolph Giuliani- wouldn’t have been a willing collaborator in a sham report trashing US vets for shameful political purposes.

Napolitano’s qualification for this job was purely being a liberal Obama sycophant… certainly not any skills, insight, or ability.

Her recent statements on Canadian border security illustrate how incompetent and puzzled she really is- completely lacking the credentials to be in charge of protecting our country from the likes of Al Qaida.

Trouble is, the narcissist Obama needs to be surrounded by mindless drones to confirm his omnipotence and pollyanna world view. But such appointments as Napolitano and Panetta to vital national security posts are a show of weakness that will surely encourage terrorists and other rogue characters who see America as their enemy- no matter how hard Barack tries to schmooze them.

Sadly, anyone who expected The One to place the nation’s practical defense interests above those of his own political security and radical agenda simply hasn’t looked at how he got this far in the first place.

Comment by William R. Cumming

April 23, 2009 @ 11:03 am

I should have mentioned a conclusion I reached long ago as to the “Unity of Culture” issue listed as priority #5! Between 65,000 and 85,000 personnel in DHS are uniformed or carry a gun and badge or both. By the way there are not 220,000 FTE in DHS either and never have been. But those folks mentioned above all get to retire in 20 years presumably because of the danger and strenous activity in their jobs. Why not just go for a 25 year and out system for all of DHS and then you might approach one culture. Different employment and retirement systems also are crucial into forming culture and outlooks and even performance.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

April 23, 2009 @ 11:55 am

In response to R-R-R:

One of the great strengths of Ronald Reagan was a consistent respect for the humanity of his adversaries, foreign and domestic. A real affection developed between the President and Speaker O’Neill, despite wildly different backgrounds and fundamental political disagreement. In both public and private President Reagan was consistently polite and avoided the ad hominem. He could enjoy arguing over an idea. He knew how to craft– and deploy — an effective linguistic zinger. But he usually gave the benefit of the doubt to his opponent’s intention and capacity. It seems to me that Ronald Reagan demonstrated a grace of language and integrity of purpose that is a helpful model. I commend it to you.

Comment by William R. Cumming

April 23, 2009 @ 1:37 pm

The publication of the Reagan letters have caused substantial revision in the estimates of his capacity as a leader to the positive. None the less I think extensive long term damage to the country was caused by President Reagan and his followers. Including Constitutional damage. Like all men (an women) his record will be fully revealed by the passage of time. What I always found interesting was his long-term union membership and presidency did not deter him from making the hard decision to fire the members of PATCO. What I do think becomes increasingly clear over time is that the direct and indirect impacts of two incidents/events in the Soviet Union did as much or more to accelerate Perestroka and Glasnost. The core melt accident at Chenyobl and cover up and the Armenian earthquake when even picks and shovels could not be delivered to military forces in time for search and rescue efforts. I would argue that these two events fall clearly within the DHS/Homeland Security Portfolio as constructed in the US. By the way Chenoybl reactor again needs resealing with concrete. Last time according to a Soviet citizen that I met 2/3 of the entire concrete supply of the entire Soviet Union was needed for the encapsulation process. While not ever declared a Presidential disaster or emergency, TMI in late March-June 1979 was later determined to be a core-melt accident.

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April 25, 2009 @ 2:00 pm

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Comment by Federale

April 25, 2009 @ 2:24 pm

I guess Janet Reno Napalitano forgot to read the enabling act, which specifically states that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice are the primary and lead agencies investigating and detering terrorism. ICE, CBP, and USCIS primary responsibilites lie in their pre-DHS responspibilities: immigration and customs law. The Secret Service’s primary responsibilities are protecting dignitaries and counterfeit currency investigation. The US Coast Guard’s primary responsibilities remains search, rescue and supporting the Navy in combat operations. Can anyone name the last terrorist arrested by ICE, Border Patrol, CBP, USCG, or Secret Service? I thought not. Why, because the FBI and the DOD are the only agencies arresting or killing terrorists. Let us face facts, DHS has nothing to do with terrorism, unless they just happen to run accross one while searching for drugs or illegals. DHS has a mission, but it is only tangent to terrorism, but their mission is important as it always was.

Comment by William R. Cumming

April 26, 2009 @ 10:43 am

Actually, FEDERALE, there was a crucial stop on the Canadian/Washington State border for plot against airlines. But hey to give you some due, almost none of the components of DHS that you mention have specifically had their legal authorities amended since 9/11 to encompass terrorism. And of course only the FBI and DOJ have authority over the US criminal code (18 USC Title 18)in the form of investigation and prosecution except perhaps by specific delegation by Congress to the Offices of Inspertor General and then 28 USC Section 516 or 518 or 528 (I forget which) requires referral to DOJ. I don’t know of any direct referral authority of these components to DOJ and it may exist but the point is that it must be referred not acted upon by the component in isolation.
Also not sure what you mean by the “enabling act” since DOJ was created in 1933 and you might give specifics?

Comment by Federale

April 26, 2009 @ 12:25 pm

OK, the old US Customs Service gets one terrorist. One is hardly something to cheer about. Remember, the FBI has primary jurisdiction in any federal criminal investigation. Other agencies have been specifically authorized to investigate certain violations, FDA OCI, DOS DSS, DOJ DEA, etc. While obviously ICE has both the old DOJ INS and DOT USCS authority over certain crimes, the FBI can take any case it wants, as there are no restrictions on its jurisdiction. ICE may participate in JTTF, but if an alien terrorist is identified, the FBI takes over the case.

The enabling act I refer to is the Homeland Security Act of 2002. The Act specifically states that authority for terrorist investigations remain with the DOJ FBI.

Another example is NEST teams. You would think that that is a homeland security mission, but it remains with DOE. All the important things regarding protecting the U.S. remain with their original agencies.

DHS is just a badly rearranged conglomeration of border agencies, FEMA, and a myriad of research and policy wonks, with no power or influence. And Secret Service, TSA, and Coast Guard thrown in for bad measure.

Remember, the INS and USCS were two separate border agencies. Now we have three border agencies, CBP, ICE and USCIS. Two would make more sense, a unified enforcement agency and a benefits provider. However, the best solution is one agency, with a unified command structure, training, etc. Do you know that there are seven internal affairs agencies in DHS? Office of Inspector General, ICE Office of Professional Responsibility, USSS Offfice of Inspections, CBP Office of Interal Affairs, TSA Ofifce of Inspection, USCIS Office of Special Inveestigations, and USCG Criminal Investigations Division. What a duplication of effort and resources alone on just internal investigations. Never mind that CBP and ICE do not work with each other even thought 99% of the people they arrest go to immigration court. Why do they have separate training, equipment, personnel management? Then you the same within CBP between the Office of Field Operations and the Border Patrol. Again you have separate training, uniforms, personnel systems, etc. You cannot use a CBPO to do a BP job or use an ICE agent to do a CBPO job, etc.

Why not at least create a single law enforcement position that is interchangeable as in all municipal, county or state law enforcement agencies? Between ICE and CBP there are at least seven law enforcement officer positions that have separate training, uniforms, authority, and command systems. In a county sheriff’s office you have one position, deputy sheriff and the authority for the deputy is uniform regardess of his position. A deputy can perform different functions but is trained and legally authorized to do any of the functions. Not so with ICE, CBP, BP, DRO, Air Enforcement Officer, Marine Enforcement Officer, etc.

In then end, DHS has nothing to do with terrorism and is badly managed in their primary responsibility of immigration and customs work, much less transporation security, presidential protection, counterfeiting investigation, disaster relief, etc.

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May 8, 2009 @ 5:17 am

[…] Secretary is seeking to execute the vision and mission through five priorities.  First set out in a speech two weeks ago, the five priorities are repeated — and fleshed out — in the BIB and in […]

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