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Lessons Learned from the Creation of DHS

The Partnership for Public Service, in conjunction with Booz Allen Hamilton, interviewed leaders who were part of the creation of Department of Homeland Security and Office of the Director or National Intelligence. The research indicated that many people involved felt there were initially mission overlaps and policy shortfalls.

The Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence were created in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but it was a complex endeavor consisting of a merger of 22 domestic and law enforcement agencies and around 180,000 employees.

The Partnership for Public Service, in conjunction with Booz Allen Hamilton, interviewed leaders who were part of the merger process to understand the management challenges faced with building the new agencies. The majority of the people interviewed felt that the creation of the departments was the right move, but said that it resulted in mission overlaps and policy shortfalls, confused functional and operational roles and responsibilities, dissatisfied citizens and employees, intense political pressures and public scrutiny.

The research from the Partnership for Public Service offered four key lessons about the role of leadership:

Chain of command is necessary, but not sufficient
No matter what reorganization model is chosen, strong leadership is required to articulate the mission and the reasons for change.

The soft stuff is often the hardest to tackle
The intangibles (vision, values, and culture for example) can be consequential.

Management is central to mission
Leaders of a new or reorganized department must pay special attention to basic management functions such as procurement, IT, human resources, and financial operations and tying management and business systems together.

While structure is important, the organization’s super system may be more so
The success or failure of reorganization may depend on relationships that go across the borders of the new department or agency; a new government organization doesn’t exist alone, but rather has to operate in conjunction with other departments, committees, and appointees.

You can read the full report for more information.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce.