NEWS

Former DHS Official Recommends Reorganizing the Department

By Matthew Harwood

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should begin a fundamental reorganization by developing a unified field structure for its components and separating operational and acquisition responsibilities, according to a former DHS official.

"I believe...no unified command structure exists for DHS components in the field," Paul A. Schneider (.pdf), former deputy secretary at DHS and now a principal at The Chertoff Group, a homeland security consulting group, told lawmakers. "Each component has individual field structures with unique geographic boundaries and independent chains of command. These lines of authority do not converge until they reach the Secretary/Deputy Secretary."

Schneider explained that his recommendation is based off of a similar reorganization that the Department of Defense undertook in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In 1986, President Reagan signed the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act, which eased interservice rivalries, improved interoperability between U.S. military branches, and allowed for shared procurement of military technologies, such as stealth and smart weapons.

Schneider's testimony came as part of a homeland security subcommittee hearing investigating whether DHS was effectively implementing a strategy to counter emerging threats. One of the questions underlying the hearing, according to Chairman Michael T. McCaul (R-TX), was why it was taking DHS so long to become "One DHS?"

Created in the aftermath of 9-11, DHS's executives have had to transform 22 separate agencies into one department, a massive undertaking  the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in 2003 described as at high risk for fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement. Nearly a decade later, creating one DHS is still on the GAO's high-risk list as the department has grown to become the third largest agency in the federal government with 200,000 employees and $56 billion in budget authority without solving its management problems.

Those problems according to McCaul, are best epitomized by the Secure Border Initiative's virtual fence, a boondoggle that cost taxpayers $ 1 billion with little return on investment. "[DHS] Secretary [Janet] Napolitano will certainly not attain her goal of 'One DHS' until financial and management systems are integrated," he said.

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