Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

October 13, 2009

Warning of a Homeland Security Waning

Filed under: Budgets and Spending,General Homeland Security — by Jessica Herrera-Flanigan on October 13, 2009

Interesting piece this morning from Tim Starks of CQ regarding the “urgency” of passing  the Homeland Security Appropriations bill conference report, which will be in House rules tomorrow and is expected to be on the House floor by the end of the week.  Starks notes that the bill, which traditionally has been above politics and quick to the President’s desk, is moving slower this year.  Not the first bill out, it is in the middle of the spending bills pack this year.  On the authorizing side, the Department will not see this year the passage of a homeland security authorization measure in either the House or Senate.

Is this slower pace of passage a warning that homeland security is waning as a priority for the U.S.? Have we finally reached a point where the panic has passed and we are looking at homeland security more holistically and less urgently?

It is difficult to say with certainty.  The amount of federal spending dedicated to homeland security does not necessarily indicate a waning.  A healthy chunk of funding from the stimulus bill this year also went to the Department for distribution. The Department of Homeland Security’s proposed budget for FY2010 is $42.77 billion – a 6.6% ($2.64 billion) from FY2009.  This increase came despite the predictions of many that homeland security’s budget, especially in the grants area, would have have to be cut to accommodate domestic needs.

With regards to an authorization bill – there has never been, since the Department’s creation, an authorization bill sent to the President to sign.  In 2003, when the House Select Committee on Homeland Security first attempted to pass such a bill out of Committee, Chairman Christopher Cox (R-CA) walked out of the mark-up as he couldn’t get the majority of his Republican Members to show up.  He had a hard time because the majority of his Members were Chairmen of other Committees who did not want to cede power to the temporary Committee.   The Committee’s Democrats, on the other hand, showed up in force with more than 100 amendments and were accused of being obstructionists to the process. A rocky start to say the least.

That first attempt would be a sign of things to come though the House did finally pass an authorization bill in 2005 for FY2006.  An FY2007 authorization bill made it through the House Homeland Security Committee in 2006.  There have been no other attempts to tackle a catch-all authorization bill since that date in the House.  The Senate has never acted to pass an authorization bill.

If we are not seeing a waning, we certainly are seeing a shift of priorities on how Congress is tackling the homeland security problem.  Committees in both the Senate and House are focusing on more “nuts and bolts” issues that are critical to the management, procurement, and processes of the evolving Department.  For example, on Wednesday, the House Homeland Security is looking at diversity within the DHS career ranks.  There have been a number of hearings this year looking at such issues as acquisition processes, specific programmatic contracts, and the Department’s pending move to the St Elizabeth’s campus.

Unless some catastrophe strikes, we can expect this nuts and bolts approach to continue, especially once the findings of the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (QHSR ) are made public. At that time, there is some expectation that DHS may see some more shifting of programs and policies to ensure a more functional and operational “one DHS, one one enterprise, a shared vision, with integrated results-based operations.”

These issues may not be sexy but they are important ones to assuring that the agency is capable, if the U.S. is attacked or a natural disaster strikes, of managing its response.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

October 14, 2009 @ 9:52 am

Great post Jessica so thanks, many thanks. The failure to pass a single authorization bill for DHS for signature by the President will be one road mark as to why DHS failed when the next terrorist attack occurs. Congress still does not get it–it being the need for oversight of this very sensitive Department–sensitive only if you want to see our democracy (republic) preserved and its Constitution. We (the US) are watched by others. As the oldest and richest democracy in the world how we do homeland security [I would have preferred the term “Civil Security”] is of great significance by those who are our friends and of course by our enemies.
The only glue that has helped the DHS Department contend with the vagaries of warfare and other internecine striff with OMB and other agencies since it inception has been the fact that it had its own appropriation and was never before under a continuing resolution. A recent CRS report reports how devasting a CR can be to good department or agency management practices.
Assuming the Majority DEMS make no changes in Committee Structure after the 2010 election several suggestions [and of course looks like their could be a party switch of the Majority in at least one house in 2010 or 2012, and perhaps the Presidency]! First, some Congressional Committee must take the lead in development and oversight of domestic civil crisis management for large scale castrophes including chain of command, systems, and processes and a way to verify that whatever base capability exists can be surged. Recently significant amendments to the Defense Production Act of 1950 should be looked at closely for ways to provide civil emergency preparedness, protection of the “essential civilian economy” [a term used in that statute] and of course warfighting by the armed forces. Perhaps like the Joint Committee on Defense Production which ended in 1977 there should again be a joint committee on civil domestic crisis management. The white House of this administration continues to be baffled by integration of the military in large-scale civilian response and even as evidenced by the swine flu where a Deputy NSC Advisor is the flu “CZAR” indicates that President Obama and his administration are devastating unprepared for a large scale geographic event whether by nature or man-made, intentional or unintentional. GAO and DHS/OIG continue to document failure to completely develop plans, policies, strategies, capabilities for domestic crisis management. How much of the incompetence of the federal financial management wizards and regulators is again reflected in the failure to properly establish domestic civil crisis management to deal with large scale events that physically impact the enviroonment, economy, and population of the US and private property.

Two of the primary reasons for establishing DHS were the problems created by domestic INTEL ops and procedures and their privacy and civil liberties requirements stemming from Constituional provisions. A second was protection of Critical Infrastructure.
Denied competence in the former by the establishment of the DNI and INTEL reform by statutory mandates in 2004, and failure from the denial of standard setting and regulatory authority for the later from the inception, even under the Homeland Security Act of 2002, DHS has frittered away even what limited authority it was given in these two areas. The fact that the Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee in the house would hold hearings on how to do business with DHS is a revealing insight to how incompetent is the current Congress to deal with the essential and complicated issues and policies raised by the somewhat novel threat of non-strategic attacks on the HOMELAND [hoping of course that they are non-strategic]!
Again thanks for the POST and IMO the failure of any authorization and the failure to keep DHS out from under the CR reveals an absolutely dangerous incompetency in the Congress. And clearly neither the President or his White House staff or his Secretary DHS want to expend any effort to correct these failures. I was critical of the last Administration for its efforts on Homeland Security and now that the current administration has largely adopted the former’s policy’s and mindset have to highly critical since not only no reform but little change. One example, except for the review of the Homeland Security Advisory Committee why has there been no formal review, ratification, supersession or formal adoption of the various HSPDs (Homeland Security Presdiential Directives) issued by the Bush Administration? And has DHS weighed in with formal recommendations to DOJ and the Soliticor General on litigation positions concerning Homeland Security? No evidence of that! In fact who in the Executive Branch pays much attention to DHS except its own employees. At least 50 programs, functions, and activities to Homeland Security were NOT included in the DHS portfolio. Does DHS liason with these? Do they know they exist? Do they know some support and some undermine DHS policies? Does anyone in DHS care? Is DHS viewed as a collaborative and cooperative ally by the other Executive Branch entities involved in HOMELAND Security? Okay one specific organization that should have been included in DHS! THE DEA (DRUG ENFORCEMENT ADMINSITRATION) now in DOJ but formerly the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs long ago in the TREASURY DEPT. And hey even the Drug Czar should be in DHS.

Get to work Congress! Get to work Obama Administration! Get to work Republicans [because it is becoming increasingly like that sometime in the near future you may well be back in charge!] What to do Republicans–go back and reread reports like the 9/11 Commission report and its various report cards, the five Gilmore reports, the Hart-Rudman Report and other various Commission Reports and find out what a current report card would show accomplished or not accomplished. And GAO please stop crediting DHS with accomplishments for policies not yet implemented. Is this a conspiracy to misdirect attention from HOMELAND SECURITY? You might reach that conclusion with some foundation. And in the meantime Secretary DHS create a FEDERALISM PANEL to advise you on how your programs, functions, activities are impacting, affecting, ignoring our FEDERAL SYSTEM.
Hoping this comment is viewed as positive and not negative.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

October 14, 2009 @ 12:13 pm

Last week I had drinks with someone who I consider a leading light of homeland security. He had just had good news, we should have been celebrating.

Instead we ended up comparing eight years after 9/11 and the state of Homeland Security to 1953 and the status of National Security.

Where is the HS equivalent to NSC-68?(http://www.fas.org/irp/offdocs/nsc-hst/nsc-68.htm)

Where are the institutional and intellectual heavy-weights of homeland security? Who is our Kennan? Who is our Nitze?

“Maybe you’re George and I’m Paul,” my discussion partner offered.

“If so,” I answered, “the republic is in peril.”

I don’t want to make too much of a quick chat over drinks. But in the context of what Jess suggests, he and I concluded homeland security has remained mired in mediocrity by two factors:

First, we lack the trusted, in-the-trenches leadership networks that were forged during WWII. The national security state emerged from substantial intellectual and social capital generated under fire.

Second, society — media, Congress,citizenry — do not perceive the same sort of urgent threat as emerged from the takeover of Eastern Europe, the “loss” of China, the Korean War, and even the McCarthy machinations. “Big” thinking is accordingly suppressed.

Maybe we should give thanks. The national security state — for all its strengths — is a continuing constitutional challenge. A homeland security state could be worse. It certainly sounds ominous.

But from my perspective, we are tinkering over nuts and bolts for a system and structure without a meaningful strategy. In my meadow there is an old windmill that a storm brought down more than two years ago. I could tighten every nut on that carcass and it will never draw water.

Comment by William R. Cumming

October 14, 2009 @ 1:36 pm

Well “George” you seem to have a more poetic soul than the remarkable Mr. Kennan.
All to the good when discussing Homeland Security.

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