Pass or Fail? Committee Examines Homeland Security Management

Hearings held to discuss management of DHS.

Chairman Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Ranking Member Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) held a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that examined management and structural challenges that face the Department of Homeland Security, particularly with respect to border and transportation security, emergency preparedness and response, and intelligence. The Committee has jurisdiction over DHS, which was created after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks by integrating 22 separate federal agencies that contribute to the nation’s security efforts.

“The Homeland Security Act of 2002 established a clear destination for the Department: to prevent terrorist attacks within the United States; to reduce our vulnerability to terrorism; and to assist in recovery should an attack occur. The precise route toward that destination, however, remains under construction. We are here to continue building a road that is as efficient, effective, and durable as possible,” said Collins, adding that DHS, under the leadership of Secretary Tom Ridge, has made considerable progress to better secure the country’s borders and transportation systems, protect critical infrastructure, and improve emergency response capabilities.

But she also pointed out that other reforms, such as the Transportation Worker Identification Credential, still need improvement. “The Homeland Security Act was not the last word on how we can best marshal our resources. As we proceed with this assessment, I am sure we will confront – and we will address – the broad issue of better integration within the Department, as well as a great many specific issues related to efficiency and effectiveness, accountability and authority,” she said.

Lieberman echoed the statements and said removing roadblocks to success was the top priority.

“Those of us who worked to bring the Department into existence did not expect that the difficult job of creating a cohesive whole from so many different parts could be accomplished overnight or without bumps. But because the Department’s mission is vital to securing our nation, identifying and systematically removing those obstacles must be a top priority for the Administration and Congress,” said Lieberman.

“The absence of a well-designed strategy is one of the Department’s shortcomings. Secondly, DHS will need focused leadership and skilled management to address the Department’s shortcomings. Nor can we tolerate a situation where the officials responsible for overseeing and managing the Department do not have adequate resources at their disposal to get the job done.”

Witnesses at the hearing included Richard L. Skinner, the Acting Inspector General at DHS, James Jay Carafano of The Heritage Foundation, Michael Wermuth of The RAND Corporation, Stephen E. Flynn of the Council On Foreign Relations, and Richard Falkenrath of The Brookings Institution. They discussed the findings of recent reports on the achievements and remaining challenges in accomplishing DHS’ mission.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47