Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

September 22, 2011

Authorizing Homeland Security…

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Jessica Herrera-Flanigan on September 22, 2011

Yesterday, for the first time since the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in 2003, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee passed a homeland security authorization bill, S. 1546 (Department of Homeland Security Authorization Act of 2011).

The bill, which the Committee considered over two weeks, was limited in its reach, mostly due to the jurisdictional limits of the Committee.  The Committee focused only on those issues that would not trigger referrals to other Committees.

Much of the bill focused on making the Department a more efficient, whether it be in its acquisition practices or in its structure.  There were also a number of amendments that tackled -on both sides – the debate over radicalization and civil liberties issues.   More than 70 amendments were offered, many of which were agreed upon outside the Executive Meeting as part of a revised manager’s amendment.

Among the highlights:

  • The requirement of the development of  a long-term strategic human capital plan to build out DHS’ acquisition workforce.
  • The implementation of “open architecture approach to acquisitions.”  Specifically, this is intended to cover “the employment of business and technical practices that yield modular, interoperable systems that adhere to standards with open interfaces, with a goal of encouraging competitive proposals from multiple qualified sources and rapid incorporation of innovative technologies into systems.”
  • Elevating the Assistant Secretary of Policy to an Undersecretary position, an elevation that should have been made long ago given the responsibilities of that office.
  • Improving the Department’s efforts generally on preparedness, response and recovery.
  • The creation of an Office of International Travel Security & Screening, which would combine the efforts of US-VISIT, the Screening Coordination Office (currently residing in policy),  and the visa waiver program.


The passage of this bill is significant, especially as the House is working to take up its version of a homeland security authorization bill in the coming month or so.   We could very well see this Congress the first Homeland Security Authorization bill since the agency’s creation go to the President’s desk, which is ironic given that Congress is as a whole at a standstill and partisanship is standard course in D.C. these days.  Maybe it is because of the 9/11 anniversary or that truly is the case that homeland security is not a partisan issue — we’ll find out over the coming months.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

September 22, 2011 @ 2:36 am

Well hope springs eternal! Sounds like the Senate at least forgives and forgets all the non-compliance with statutory mandates by Congress when DHS does its work. The QHSR is probably the outstanding example but others exist like the long term Recovery strategy and many others.
Here is what should be in the Committee print:
1. A comprehensive list of all statutes critical to DHS ops that are not under the control of the Committee and what has happened to those statutes in last decade.
2. How DHS cooperates and collaborates on law enforcement issues with other key law enforcement components like the FBI, DEA, DOJ etc.
3. How each of its [DHS] components assists and or detracts from the DHS primary missions and whether other Committees agree or disagree with that assessment.
4. A comprehensive listing of all programs, functions, and missions performed by DHS that have never had a specific approval by the authorizing committee but only in an appropriation act.
5. The Committees view on how the 20 + components different retirement requirements impacts the overall effectiveness and efficiency of DHS.
6. How DHS should implement the new “Inherently Governmental” guidance issued by OMB.
7. Who wears a uniform in DHS and why?
8. Who wears a gun and badge in DHS and why?
9. How STATES and their local governments input to DHS on policy and programs, functions, and activities?
10. How DHS is involved in response to domestic riots and civil disorders?

Comment by Brian

September 22, 2011 @ 7:50 am

This bill is laying the ground work for DHS to have the unfettered ability to deem any group or individual a violent extremist. This where Orwell and 1984 meet 2011.

Comment by William R. Cumming

September 22, 2011 @ 7:55 am

The bill freezes hires in DHS until unemployment drops to 8%! That will not happen this decade IMO! Except DHS to be full of old geezers by then. Already few young managers and supervisors in DHS with many long past retirement. Perhaps 25% of agency if you count the large, unusually large, numbers of second career types. Is this now the Old Soldiers Home?

Comment by Chris

September 22, 2011 @ 10:09 am

Couldn’t disagree with comment 151988 that DHS has few young managers & supervisors. Perhaps in the legacy operational components tacked onto HQ (ICE, CBP, etc.), but DHS corporate is chock-full of GS-15s in their early to mid-30s. There are also a number of SESs that have many, many moons until retirement age.

Comment by William R. Cumming

September 22, 2011 @ 10:41 am

Chris! Agree but was thinking below SES and GS-15 level. That level all heavily politicized by both parties with all vetted for political affiliation when vacancies occur. This not a nonpartisan or bitpartisan organization.

Remember always that 26 SES positions stripped out of FEMA after March 1, 2003 to staff the rest of the DHS.

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