Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/washington/news.aspx?id=139445
Story Retrieval Date: 5/24/2013 6:59:26 PM CST
Created in 2003, the Department of Homeland Security is an amalgam of agencies pulled from departments as diverse as the Treasury, FBI, Energy, Justice and Defense, among others. The 12 departments of DHS represent the consolidation of 22 agencies.
Editor's note: This is the second of a two-part series that looks at how the Department of Homeland Security is performing under the new administration.
WASHINGTON – Continuing the evaluation of the Department of Homeland Security from yesterday, today, bureaucracy watchers and academics weigh in on how DHS is faring under President Barack Obama.
And, just as the state Homeland Security agencies noted, this batch of commentators pointed out that while some progress—such as better communication between the department in Washington and its sister agencies in the states—is due to the new sheriff in town, some of the positive changes are the result of some heavy lifting done by the President George W. Bush’s administration.
Below, another take on Secretary Janet Napolitano’s realm, aka, DHS:
Who: Dr. James Carafano, Heritage Foundation
What needs to change: Grant money and financing were sore points. Like the state Homeland Security agencies and the GAO, Carafano said grants are a good idea but the way in which money is distributed is a persistent problem. “We’ve never got that right. Nothing’s really changing there.”
What’s good: Carafano said the Department of Homeland security gets points for really taking stock and trying to assess its strengths and weaknesses. Carafano also said DHS was on strong footing when it comes to being ready to take on H1N1 (Swine Flu), and noted this readiness is the result of prep work that began before Obama’s inauguration. “We’ll be in better shape for the pandemic because of the work [DHS has] continued from the prior administration” he said. Another point of praise: Secretary Napolitano is doing more than simply asking what’s broken, she’s asking what doesn’t work. “She’s looking at things that maybe don’t make sense, like the color-coded [terror alert system].”
What’s disappointing: Carafano’s unhappy with how DHS has been handling border security and immigration – two subjects Napolitano supporters often feel DHS’ leader is more than capable of handling. Carafano said border security is complicated by outside concerns, such as wanting to please illegal immigration groups and compounded by inefficiencies. Carafano said immigration “could be [Napolitano’s] Katrina.”
Three things to focus on: Border, immigration and security; efficiencies within law enforcement; the ability to respond to disasters.
Who: Michael Greenberger, Director of the Center for Health and Homeland Security at the University of Maryland and a professor at the School of Law.
What’s going well: Greenberger is a full-on fan of Napolitano. Greenberger has confidence that Napolitano’s administrative discipline will be a boon for the department in Washington as well as for improving relationships with state and local agencies.“I think she’s the first secretary to really come to grips with the difficulty of managing this huge bureaucracy, he said.
Bush v Obama, whose DHS is better: Like his peers, Greenberger said a department this size, and this new (it’s only six years old) is going to have some growing pains and is going to make mistakes, regardless of who is sitting in the Oval Office.
Areas to focus on: Border control and the prevention/preparedness for the release of bio-agents (biopathogens, to be more specific).
Who: William C. Martel, Associate Professor of International Security at the Fletcher School
Making the grade: Martel said it’s too early to give DHS a thumbs up or thumbs down. Martel said it typically takes cabinet secretaries, such as Napolitano, a year to get a good read on their departments. Even after a year of contemplation and figuring out what needs to be fixed and what needs to be overhauled, Martel has dim hope that it will be able to tackle every issue. “DHS has had, and I think will continue to have a pretty difficult problem to deal with, which is trying to maintain security over an enormous infrastructure and so many players.”
Proof DHS is holding its own: “It’s hard to get away from the argument that the absence of attacks is a pretty [good] assessment of how they are doing.”
Priority wish list: Cybersecurity, border security, nuclear security. As for power grids and port security – what Martell considers classic concerns – “people already know how to deal with those kinds of problems.”
Cybersecurity Catch-22: Although cybersecurity is a major pain point, Martel concedes it is a knotty issue where even the upside—more secure networks—has a downside: establishing iron-clad standards risks dampening innovation, but failing to establish standards keeps networks exposed.