The entry period for the Center for Homeland Defense and Security’s 6th Annual essay contest closed on Friday.
This year’s question was “What is a dangerous idea you have about homeland security, and why is it dangerous?”
I’m looking forward to reading the essays people wrote.
Last week someone copied me on the message, below. It was a response to another email, asking if the recipient saw the essay question, and planned to submit an entry. Here’s the response:
I had seen [the contest announcement] and had already decided I did not have time to put a paper together.
But, yes, I have some dangerous ideas.
Like “We should create a Department of Homeland Security.”
This idea is dangerous because it will be guided by incompetent political appointees (either party, makes no difference), poorly managed by Senior Executives who are largely the rejects of the donor Departments, and guided by horrifically invalid concepts and assumptions (e.g., “One Job, One Agency” by James Carrafano of The Heritage Foundation, the most influential of the conservative Can’t Think Tanks).
Further, it is highly likely that Congress will say its primary mission is preventing terrorist attacks while, at the same time, Congress will leave all of the instruments of government appropriate to that task located elsewhere in government. This will ensure that the most senior leaders and managers in the Department, in addition to being incompetent, are focused on what, for the bulk of the Department, is “Mission Irrelevant.”
Why, with any luck, we can make sure that the new Department of Homeland Security has, year in and year out, the very worst morale of any large Department or Agency in government.
The author is not a wing nut, from either side of the nut spectrum. The author is someone who has been involved with the business of homeland security for more than 30 years. The author is one of the smartest, forward thinking, and creative public servants I’ve met in the past decade. The author understand the concept of risk as well if not better than anyone I’ve met in the homeland security enterprise. The author’s knowledge and understanding are grounded in an operational career that spans more than 30 years, and includes leadership responsibilities for some of the nation’s most significant response events.
I contacted the author and asked permission to publish the note.
“Sure,” the author wrote back. “I’m leaving [soon] anyway.”
“Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.”
But organizations in the public and the private sector frequently abridge their employees’ freedom of speech. It’s not unconstitutional.
Allowing, encouraging, demanding that public servants in the homeland security organizations speak their mind is a dangerous idea that probably will not make the cut.
Louis Brandeis wrote “If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the process of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.”
The author of the “We should create a Department of Homeland Security” is someone who, in my experience, lived Brandeis’ words.
I will be sorry to see him leave the arena.