Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

February 3, 2015

A quiet but notable reorganization at DHS headquarters

Filed under: DHS News — by Christian Beckner on February 3, 2015

(Author’s Note: this analysis is cross-posted from the Security Insights blog that is affiliated with the GW Center for Cyber and Homeland Security, where I currently work).

This past Monday (February 2, 2015), the Department of Homeland Security released details on its Fiscal Year 2016 budget request, both in summary documents as well as the nearly 4000-page Congressional Budget Justification (CBJ) for the Department. The full budget justification each year typically contains details on newly-proposed programs and activities within the Department, and this year is no exception. In particular, the CBJ includes details on a significant reorganization within the headquarters elements of the Department. This reorganization has been underway since last summer – that’s when I first heard the broad outline of the leadership team’s plans in conversations with several DHS officials – but the details within the budget justification constitute the first public overview of this reorganization.

First, the DHS Policy Office is reorganized into a top-level “executive office” and four subordinate offices (three of which are new), a significant change from what is currently still described on the DHS website. These four offices are identified as: (1) Threat Prevention & Security Policy, (2) Strategy, Plans, Analysis & Risk, (3) Border, Immigration & Trade Policy, and (4) International Engagement. The last office replaces the Office of International Affairs, which DHS had formerly proposed to separate from the Office of Policy for several years – a proposal that met Congressional resistance.

Three existing offices are moved out of the DHS Policy Office as part of this proposal: the Private Sector Office, the Office for State and Local Law Enforcement, and the Homeland Security Advisory Council. These three offices are moved into the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs at headquarters, which the Department proposes to rename as the “Office of Partnership and Engagement.” In addition to the three offices realigned from the Policy Office, this new office would also take over responsibility of the “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign from the Office of Public Affairs, and absorb an academic liaison position from the Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer.

Another existing DHS office significantly impacted by the reorganization is the DHS Office of Operations Coordination and Planning (OPS). Its Planning function is moved from OPS to the Strategy, Plans, Analysis and Risk (SPAR) element of the DHS Policy Office. The budget for the Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN) is shifted from OPS to the Office of the Chief Information Officer. (The CIO’s office has already been running HSIN for the last few years, per the terms of an MOU with OPS). Several senior liaison positions are transferred to the DHS Chief of Staff’s office, and additional positions are transferred to the Office of the Chief Security Officer. The Secretary’s briefing staff is transferred into OPS, but overall these transfers constitute a significant reduction in the size of the Operations Directorate, leaving it primarily with the National Operations Center, and perhaps still its continuity of operations function, as best I can tell. (It is difficult to fully comprehend the Operations Directorate budget request based on public budget documents, since its funding its embedded with that of the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis in the classified “Analysis and Operations” account).

The budget request also provides the first public details on the Department’s plans to reestablish a Joint Requirements Council (other than a brief mention in testimony last September), locating it within the Office of the Secretary (as opposed to within the Management Directorate) and requesting $5 million in initial funding for it. The budget justification describes the role of the JRC as follows, on page 96 of the full CBJ:

The new Component-led Joint Requirements Council (JRC) will formulate recommendations to DHS leadership on options to meet the capability needs of DHS operators and provide a vital link between strategic guidance and investments. The JRC will look at cross-component requirements and develop recommendations for investment, as well as changes to training, organization, operational processes and procedures, and proposed law changes. By linking Department-wide strategies and investments, the JRC will increase operational efficiencies by achieving economies of scale and eliminating unnecessary duplication. Additionally, the JRC will improve traceability and defensibility of DHS resource decision making to committee oversight and Components.

There are a number of other minor shifts of offices and personnel within Department offices as part of this reorganization, but these are the major elements of it. Taken together, they amount to the most significant reorganization of the Department’s headquarters since the 2005 Second Stage Review, but to date have not been publicized by the Department, reflected on its website, or received significant attention in Congressional hearings.

Hopefully that will change soon, starting with the House and Senate DHS budget hearings that will take place in the next few weeks. The rationales for these plans need to be explained publicly to DHS’s external stakeholders, and are deserving of robust Congressional oversight, first to assess whether any statutory changes are needed to facilitate such a reorganization, and secondly, if such changes are supported by Congress, to examine ways to reinforce their chance of having a meaningful impact on the headquarter’s role in supporting the performance of the Department’s missions (for example, by finally establishing the Office of Policy in law, and led by an Under Secretary).

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Comment by William R. Cumming

February 4, 2015 @ 7:07 am

IMO THIS REORG MAKES NO SENSE AND IF IT NEEDS CONGRESSIONAL APPROVAL PROBABLY WILL BE SIGNIFICANTLY MODIFIED BY CONGRESS AS WAS THE 2SR! The 2SR was approved by the Appropriations Committee in the fall of 2005 shortly after Hurricane Katrina made landfall in late August 2005 [the 2SR had been proposed in June or July 2005].

CONGRESS ENACTED PKEMRA 2006 IN OCTOBER 2006 AND THAT STATUTE EFFECTIVE MARCH 31, 2007! This statute reversed in part the 2SR which had created a PREPAREDNESS DIRECTORATE led by Under Secretary Foresman.

IMO this REORG fails to ensure the original purposes for establishing DHS still have much meaning or hope for accomplishment and demonstrates the incompetence of most of the DHS leadership.

Chairs being shuffled on the deck of the Titanic?

Comment by S. T. More

February 6, 2015 @ 1:35 am

Thank-you Mr. Beckner for the very helpful summary of the planned reorganization.

Mr. Cumming, can you clarify your thoughts on why the reorganization makes no sense? What I have read makes a lot of sense to me, though I look forward to the upcoming hearings for additional clarification by the Secretary’s office.

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