Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

February 19, 2013

A dangerous idea that did not make the cut: “We should create a Department of Homeland Security”

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on February 19, 2013

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.


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Comment by William R. Cumming

February 19, 2013 @ 7:54 am

Great post and in particular the portion dealing with freedom to speak. It has always seemed to me that as long the MSM let’s the spokespersons speak off the record they shoot themselves in the foot. Spokepersons should be fully accountable and thus should be a banned concept for journalism a “profession” that largely lives on the dole anyhow with almost total reliance now on the propaganda efforts of the public affairs offices, not to be confused with Emergency Public Information.

What could be done? Let the MSM or others interview any public spokes person designated or not and let that person make clear that he/she is touting the official line and then be allowed to state his/her personal opinion as to the policy or whatever.

Secrecy and lack of public information is clearly now a great threat to our democracy [Republic] and it is sinking another Presidency even as we write.

How the guardians of the secrets love to hold and manipulate that power over the truth.

Comment by Christopher Tingus

February 19, 2013 @ 9:07 am

“If tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be under the guise of fighting a foreign enemy. But, in reality it will be an Enemy from within” – James Madison (1785).

“No People will tamely surrender their Liberties, nor can they be easily subdued, when knowledge is wide spread and Virtue is preserved. On the Contrary, when People are universally ignorant, and debauched in theri Manners, they will sink under their own weight without the Aid of foreign invaders” – Samuel Adams (1775).

“Find out just what People will submit to, and you have found the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both” – Frederick Douglass.

We have become so vulnerable as these partisan political ways, the void in any leadership from the WH down to State as we have clearly seen in the avoidance of answering the specifics of the “Benghazi Massacre” where we knpwingly left our brave Patriots behind in what I perceive as breach of faith, treason….

With our Constitution cast to the ground and a WH so perverse and divisive in its ways and a domestic and foreign policy in such disarray where China and the “KGB Putinites” are fill the void at every crack in our failed ways….Homeland Security….let’s begin to talk about a city like Chicago with tough gun laws and rampant murders pointing to the real solution required to protect us at home and within our communities for it is my opinion as far as foreign policy, our weakness will continue to enable the host of adversaries we have seeking our demise such as the “Brutes of Tehran” and the “KGB Putinites” and even the Chinese who are hacking into our various grids which is in fact an Act of War in this world of technology…

Homeland Security starts within the home and despite all the corrupt politicians we “entrust” our precious vote to expecting these men and women to serve the public and see only self-serving ways from the locals and up the ladder right to the WH and the illustrious Barry Obama and “Smug-smiled Pelosi” with all her millions….

The real debate is not how many bullets we put into the clip – for all lawful purpose – but what we are allowing our youth to put into ther minds today with such failed parenting….the blood and gore from our entertainment business is so obvious and while we see actors coming out and talking about gun violence, how about the movies and the filth found in technology gaming where the entertainment business is promoting violence and in this legal drug culture where one in ten Americans are taking anti-depressants, when I hear of the politics within Homeland Security, I know there are many serious and dedicated People who truly do their utmost to get the job done and protect us and ‘ol Glory, however to me as “Joe Citizen” on “Main Street USA” surely I see our loss globally of the influence of US policy and presence which I hold this administration and both side of the aisle responsible for…however, we have a WH who wants to again undermine the Constitution as it does whenever possible and abuse the powers of Executive office in every way w/ many more Americans seeking Barry Obama in the likes of his Majesty the King and a reminder to him that if he cared at all about US history, We fled King George III for our astute forefathers feld the taxes and fees and the lack of representation so ifnwe are to truly address the decay in America and before Barry Obama et al continues this spend mode where the budget deficit exceeds $16.4 trillion, a 257% increase since Barry Obama took office in ’09, let talk about Homeland Security and begin by looking at Detroit where 70% of all births are single Mothers! Today, it is reported that 40% and maybe more of all births in the country are born to single parents and more than seven in ten prisoners are from broken and dysfunctional families!

As a senior citizen aka “Joe Citizen” here on “Main Street USA” and understand that Chinese leaders are educated in the sciences and technologies unlike our legal professionals licensed to steal and without the prerequisites of successfully addressing a smaller government ops without all this continued sponsoring of enabling…a public school system versus other nations where we are oh so failing in so many categories….

….and just in Detroit, never mind in Chicago, more Americans were killed in Detroit last year than in Afghanistan where we don’t belong anyways for our lack of understanding our own culture and needs carries forward to Iraq and Afgahnistan and other where we have no sense of other cultures….

Where are the strong Fathers, the selfless parents and the Mother’s who are devoted to family and to husband! When as a Senior Citizen I see Mothers driving and texting an see little kids strapped into their car seats and the Mother giving little care to driving and assuring safety…sure I may shake my head in disapproving, however Homeland Security begins at home and then to a government who is responsible to the Constitution and to ‘ol Glory for we do Not have lasting families and safe schools not because of guns, but because the technologies at hand whether in the hands of parents texting even through the weekend denying the kids quality time or our youngsters who by the time they rach 18 years of age, will have spent more than 10,000 hours playing video games emerged in violence whether omn the screen of their laptops, television or sponsored by the Hollywood producers and actors….

America..take a look in the mirror for despite Barry Obama and this ever so corrupt and evolving and imposing government enslaving so many Americans and intentionally taking hope and aspiration from families and leaving then in despair and at the beckon of political party for the sole purpose of their lust for power and conrtol, let’s talk about Homeland Security and begin at home by keeping the higher laws that our Creator, God has bestowed upon us as our guide from the beginning and clearly written in Biblical scripture, not the “Quar’an” as Barry Obama has mentioned far many more times during his tenure in the WH for We are a Judeo-Christian nation first welcoming all to follow their faith, however Homeland Security must begin at home with marriage and parenting and caring for our young. If I were to vote to pass a law, the first would be to never mind universally register guns as a way for government to again impose itself, but to pass an immediate Homeland Security law to pass a federal law sponsored by both sides of the aisle making it necessary to have hand free communication in every vehicle to safeguard the kids from their parents!

As far as Homeland Security and foreign policy, kindly understand that Germany and China are filling the void we have left as well as the “KGB Putinites” with their new oil revenues in drilling while we dream of alternate energies…We need to drill and we need to sponsor pipelines and natural gas and fracking….We need to get People back to work and become competitive for we are seeing ports and strategic waterways under the control of these other adversaries and yes, the Rev Wright back in ’08 made it quite clear that “Tehran” should have a WMD as long as the “Zionists” had such and with Barry Obama, the Chicago city street slicker” and nothing more, so perverse in his ways and so willing to allow grown fetus to be aborted and sitting and listening to the Rev Wright for 20 years and cill’in with the like of Bill Ayers, Hussein Obama and his kenyan pals, all anti-colonialists, Ungor, Soros, Saiid and other socialists and leftists…seeking to bring America and diminish its miltary prowess to bring us par with the thriod world counrties…Homeland Security whether the “Benghazi Massacre” or the inability of us a few weelks ago to deploy a second aircraft carrier because of funding issues while being able to export a dozen or more F-16’s to Barry Obama’s pals and some $1+ billion to the Islamic Egyptian Brotherhood whose pledge in creed is to destroy the “Zionists pigs” and America!

Get a grip. Look in the mirror and not in your technology screens for reality is not in your latest cell phones or lap tops, but rather reality sees a fast deployment and well trained Germany with the ever powerful and corrupt Vatican at its side sending 800 leopard tanks to Qatar and Saudi Arabia in Germany’s intent to build a new Confedeate of Middle East States to become allies as it will again cast us into global warfare…

….and as Seniors we are concerned with the obvious inability of Homeland Security to reference Biblical verse to clearly understand what is truly taking place – see (Isaiah verse 5 and read 1:2-3) to se that “The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint” and that as a “Sinful nation, a People laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward…”

Homeland Security must understand that we are a nation now faint in heart and a People who are decieved and a People who as individuals and parents and politicians, self-serving and while we are Senior citizens having our morning coffee, many now mong our group in their eighties and even noineties who have served our beloved Republic in battle and have the scars and the medals of honor to prove their strength and valor of Americans whose parents for the most part because American citizens by learning about our US history and lawfully gaining their US citizenry, understanding that Democracy must have an arsenal to protect against its German foe and others…as nations must be strong and its Homeland Security in every way the same for War looms ahead and without a strong America despite Barry Obama et al and this ever corrupt Congressional makeup on both sides of the aisle, We will Not be prepared as we were nearly Not prepared just before WWII!

Stand tall with fortitude and – knowledge – on beahlf of America, Israel and Great Britain for we are on course for far worse and turbulent times ahead!

God Bless America!

Christopher Tingus
“Joe Citizen”
“Main Street USA”
PO Box 1612
Harwich (Cape Cod), MA 02645

Comment by Dan OConnor

February 19, 2013 @ 12:48 pm

The emperor wears no clothes…

It sucks to care. I am part of the Homeland Security Enterprise (HSE) and I generally agree with the author of the original post. What if we did away with it (DHS)? What would the consequences be? And, I am of the belief that friction and conflict hone, not undermine. There are lots of reasons why the HSE is failing. The author is correct in the assessment of morale and leadership. DHS ranks last in virtually every category of the best places to work study of the government.


They also rank last in leadership.


So are we to believe that some 200,000+ people are incorrect or hyperbolic in their assumptions and opinions? Are the coalescence of vagary, expectation, mission ambiguity, and general federal government malaise the reason for such disharmony? Is the lack of general success or mission accomplishment shaping the point of view that we are not the Department of Defense, but just a bunch of policy wonks creating work to execute work?

How does an agency like DHS build, train, and educate homeland security professionals when they are still unable to adequately define their mission? How does an agency without performance measures in place to measure performance? How does an agency prepare a nation for “something”?

Are we military, paramilitary, pseudo military, or exclusively civilian enterprise? Do the Office of Personal Management rules and regulations in accordance with human resource practices know how to effectively evaluate talent, screen experience, and place it appropriately in the enterprise? Is it just another federal enterprise or something more than that?

These are very hard questions. Are the current answers symptomatic of something wrong or is there something “bigger” afoot? What cost and consequence are the solutions to the aforementioned questions? It is very difficult not to be cynical.

When I came to the enterprise I was told, “…don’t care where you’ve been, what you know, or what you’ve done …”. In many aspects we think we want General Officer performance without field grade or company grade experience. As I often heard one SES say; we are just making sausage.

So I ask you, why is it so difficult to define DHS and get to the root of its deficiencies? Government is inherently inefficient (to a degree by design) but the expectation is it should be efficient. Is that a failing expectation? It is also filled with mammoth contradictions. We all must complete mandatory ethic classes, harassment classes and a host of other stuff that has NOTHING to do with the mission, but everything to do with moving the bureaucracy along.

That does not constitute training and education. That constitutes employee compliance. Obviously we need this annual reminder because the violations continue to occur. Yet, we see revolving door antics by former governmental employees providing wares and “service” as contractors and vendors. That’s influence peddling among other things isn’t it? The contagion of example leaves much to be desired. But this all should have been expected.

It is also difficult to build unity and a sense of urgency. It’s not like the military with moves every couple of years, requirements for education and performance, exposure to new challenges and hurdles to ascend into the leadership roles and develop skills for shaping policy positions. Is that a bad thing? How does one build a viable culture from so many disparate intentions and ideas?

Recently I read a book called The Birth of Plenty: How the Prosperity of the Modern World was Created by William Bernstein. On page 390 of his book he writes this;
“Similarly the terrorist threat, while frightening on an emotional level does not rise to quantitative significance. Even if terrorists can regularly execute events on the scale of September 11, they will cause carnage that is orders of magnitude less than that resulting from AIDS, alcohol. tobacco, road accidents, or Big Macs. In the first half of the 20th century the damage was far worse. On an average day between September 1939 and August 1945 approximately 25,000 people met violent deaths. That comes to one September 11 every three hours, twenty four hours a day, for six years (his emphasis)”

Couple this with Terror, Security, and Money written by Mark Stewart and John Miller. They assert we have spent a trillion dollars to deter, prevent, foil, or protect against 1,667 otherwise successful Times-Square type attacks per year, or more than four per day. That is not the case, so where did the money go? Here is a presentation of their work;


Have we just become weaker, less vigilant, less resilient descendents of our recent forefathers or was the depression and World War II just a hyped, contrived, and shaped message for compliance then too? It should be addressed if we think so. What if our expectation as a nation has been shaped by the performance of our elected officials? Whatever camp one derives their ideology from is angry, disappointed, and disillusioned.

With approval ratings in the single digits perhaps I am not smart enough to understand their challenge. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely or so the saying goes…I guess getting elected is a full time job and the “other” stuff takes a back seat. Sarcasm, like humor always has seeds of truth. But surely there are highly committed, passionate leaders that strive to lead, right?

I heard often in the Marine Corps that if Marines are not bitching they are not happy. On some level, this discourse or at least displeasure can aid in a cathartic renewal. Real problems require real leadership and it appears we may be on the horizon of some significant challenges. I don’t know if I am a real leader or whatever else one calls it, but I like the fight and until someone makes me shut up I will voice my observed, biased opinion and hope to make something better.

As I opened…I care. A lot of people care. A lot of people want to do the right thing and make the tough decision, and trumpet aloud, “this way”. Just like bitching…when they, we, he and she quit caring then be worried. I wore a uniform for a long time and didn’t change when I put it in the closet; I just changed the appearance and mission.

Churchill said it best; “. . .We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender. . .”.

Time to fight on.

Great post, candid and provocative, as it and this blog should always endeavor to be!

Comment by William R. Cumming

February 20, 2013 @ 4:42 am

Great comment DAN and many thanks for it!

Perhaps it takes broad guage people to run a broad guage enterprise? But then many enter government for what it can do for them not for the people!

Comment by Claire B. Rubin

February 20, 2013 @ 5:51 am

Bravo, Dan.

Comment by William R. Cumming

February 20, 2013 @ 1:32 pm

I am curious [always]!

My estimate [and I find no real statistics on this anywhere–even CRS] is that over 100,000 personnel in DHS wear either or all of uniforms, guns, and badges and that all of these qualify to retire after 20 years of service. If so does this cultural framework as the driver for DHS culture?

I also estimate over 75% of DHS personnel have National Security Personnel Security clearances under Title 5 of the CFR [since only those meeting the definitions in Section 531 and others qualify] meaning they have access to war plans and operations among other things.

Has Secrecy and its culture and ignorance of federalism issues helped or hindered DHS and its programs, functions, or activities?

Comment by JB

February 21, 2013 @ 10:52 pm

Brilliant post, Chris, and brilliant response, Dan. Revisiting the Homeland Security Act of 2002 is an enlightening and sometimes shocking exercise. Enlightening, because there is real insight and in some cases unbridled excitement evident in those pages at what could be hidden between the lines of the Act. A quick re-read finds the content shocking, as well, due to the dramatic departure we have taken in some ways on the promises made in November 2002.

To address an earlier question asked in HSAJ by Mr. Bellavita, I would like to offer my pet answer to the question “What is Homeland Security?” Homeland security is the synergy of federal, state, local, territorial, and tribal efforts to protect borders and infrastructure and prevent, respond to, and recover from terrorist and catastrophic events within the United States. So what does DHS do, then? By my working definition, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) leads efforts to reduce America’s vulnerability to terrorism and catastrophe by forging a partnership with state and Federal homeland security stakeholders to identify areas of increased risk within the sea, air, land and cyber domains of the United States. Yes, my answer to the question is “Terrorism and Catastrophes”. And the reason for my answer is that I think it is precisely this sort of narrowing of equities that gets us back to the initial goals from that seminal legislation in 2002.

DHS’ key uniqueness, for my money, comes precisely from the fact that the Department looks at risk in addition to (and when done properly, more frequently than) threat, and uses data provided throughout the DHS Enterprise for strategic awareness ACROSS the Department as well as vertically to policy and state/local levels. Data that prior to the creation of the Department would have sat behind a firewall or, more commonly, in a desk drawer without any analysis or further coordination. The magic of homeland security, for me, is in the promise of coordination and dialogue on topics that bring otherwise foreign parties together to protect a common good. As the mystery author today, Mr. Bellavita (whose content I consider my guiding principles for my job) and Mr. O’Connor point out, leading the change–in a sea of niche equities, political leanings, and other mangled priorities–to make these shared values both transparent and universally recognized among the aforementioned Homeland Security stakeholders, is the path to success.

Indeed, I consider the sign of true success for DHS being when we begin telling a story no one has ever heard before, something that reminds all of us about what we are trying to protect and the threat, vulnerability, and consequence(s) involved. When reports issued by the Department draw the majority of their content not from the FBI and other older agencies but from SAR and DHS reporting that 12 years ago would have been non-existent or largely ignored. When a Homeland Security Summit spends as much time talking about the implications of poor interoperability and failing infrastructure as it does terrorism. These milestones will mark the emergence of Homeland Security as a topic larger than any one generation or political cycle (as a meme, perhaps, to quote Judy Boyd?), and truly invent something that is shared, part and parcel, between state, Federal, and private sector partners.

To close, I would just like to thank all of you for expanding the minds of those of us Homeland Security practitioners looking for a little “kick” now and again who find inspiration from heroes like the one in this recent entry and those commenting here. Their efforts cut right to the sentiments that were at the heart of the pledge forged during a time of horror and hysteria over a decade ago. And to draw a lesson from words from this pledge that might serve as a constant call…(from the 9/11 report):

“The Department of Homeland Security and its oversight committees should regularly assess the types of threats the country faces to determine (a) the adequacy of the government’s plans–and the progress against those plans–to protect America’s critical infrastructure and (b) the readiness of the government to respond to the threats the United States might face. The Homeland Security Act of 2002 gave the under secretary for information analysis and infrastructure protection broad responsibilities. In practice, this directorate has the job to map ‘terrorist threats to the homeland against our assessed vulnerabilities in order to drive our efforts to protect against terrorist threats.’ These capabilities are still embryonic. The directorate has not yet developed the capacity to perform one of its assigned jobs, which is to assimilate and analyze information from Homeland Security’s own component agencies…” (2004)

Those lofty goals bear as much necessary action and truth now as they did then. And as a HS practitioner with a fraction of the experience of the professional quoted in the entry above, I hope I can live up to the expectations bestowed upon us by both the public and those in the US government entrusting DHS to create that positive change.

Thank you again for all you do.

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