Delivered April 9, 2008
you for the opportunity to appear before the Committee today to discuss
the subject of this hearing, "Moving Beyond the First Five Years:
Solving the Department of Homeland Security’s Management Challenges." I
would like to raise with the Committee three immediate priorities for
Congress to tackle, as well as two long-term challenges that should be
among the first priorities of the next administration.
The three immediate priorities are:
- Consolidating congressional oversight of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS);
- Passing homeland security authorization legislation to better structure the department’s oversight role; and
- Restraining further major organizational changes within the department.
- Two long-term projects for Congress and the next administration to undertake must include:
- Establishing the national homeland security enterprise; and
- Improving federal interagency operations.
1. Put First Things First: Consolidate Congressional Oversight of the Department of Homeland Security
Arguably, many of the most significant challenges in effectively
managing DHS have resulted from disparate and, at times, contradictory
direction from Congress. This has resulted in a plethora of unrealistic
mandates and endless tinkering by various congressional committees.
Therefore, the first and most productive objective should be to address
the lack of effective congressional leadership.
failed to consolidate jurisdiction of DHS under one committee in each
chamber as recommended by the 9/11 Commission Report. Homeland Security
Department officials report to a plethora of committees that offer
conflicting and competing guidance. Committees continue to tinker with
the department, moving offices and adding missions. Committees other
than the homeland security committees still retain jurisdiction over
major parts of the department, including the Coast Guard. Consolidating
jurisdiction in a single committee in each chamber will resolve these
and other coordination problems.
2. Pass a Homeland Security Authorization Bill
Congress not only needs to reform the structure of its oversight but
its form as well. Next to defense, arguably the most important
congressional responsibility is ensuring that the federal government
has the resources and guidance needed to fulfill its domestic security
role. Congress created the Department of Homeland Security in 2002;
however, it has yet to pass a homeland security authorization bill—an
To its credit, the House Committee on
Homeland Security has drafted authorization legislation every year
since the department’s inception, but the measure has never been taken
up by the Senate. Congress must make it a priority to improve and pass
DHS authorization legislation.
The United States is waging a
long battle against transnational terrorism. Congress must pay
consistent and close attention to homeland security through the
authorization process. Passing an annual authorization bill and
further consolidating jurisdiction over DHS would show that Congress
takes its responsibilities seriously.
Priorities for the authorization measure should be to:
- Ensure the completion of requirements established in the Homeland Security Act of 2002;
- Complete reforms of the secretariat articulated in the Secretary’s Second Stage Review; and
- Reconsider the plethora of operational mandates imposed on the department.
Build a State-Based Regional Response Network.
An authorization bill could well begin by addressing fundamental
requirements for DHS first established in its enabling legislation. One
area in which Congress could speak is on the lack of DHS follow-through
in establishing a cooperative state-based regional response network.
Such a network is an essential next step in building the kind of
national security enterprise the nation needs.
rationale for a stronger cooperative regional network based on the
states rather than Washington rests on the nature of national disaster
response. On average, the federal government needs 72 hours to marshal
national resources in response to an incident that has surpassed a
state’s response capacity.
Usually, a 72-hour delay is not a
problem. State and local governments manage most of the responders that
arrive immediately at a disaster scene and, in most circumstances, have
the critical assets needed to carry themselves through the first three
days. This was largely the case even during terrorist attacks, such as
the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City
and both attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City. On the
other hand, when catastrophic disasters overwhelm state and local
governments at the outset, as in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina,
the 72-hour buffer disappears, and any delays in a coordinated federal,
state, and local response have serious consequences.
planning at a regional level could prevent such shortfalls in disaster
response. Such efforts should take the form of state-based regional
programs that focus on ensuring that states are prepared to sustain
themselves and that facilitate cooperation among federal, state, and
local efforts. In the Homeland Security Act of 2002, Congress mandated
that the Department of Homeland Security set up a regional structure.
Though the department did follow through on this mandate, such a
structure that coordinates and collaborates with state-based regional
programs could help to close the 72-hour gap.
regional programs would focus on ensuring that states are prepared to
sustain themselves. Through regional programs, states could learn the
capabilities of their partnering states and quickly tap or merge
resources as needed. Most recent writing on the development of regional
plans, programs, and entities provides for a top-down approach in which
the federal government heads the effort. However, a top-down approach
may lead to many of the same problems that have occurred during the
past few years, such as the potential marginalization of the states by
the federal government in emergency planning and response and an
overall lack of situational awareness about particular state nuances.
regional programs would focus not on federal structures in each region,
but rather on regional emergency management programs and capabilities
that are developed, coordinated, and managed by the states. Similar
small-scale programs that use a regional model, such as the Emergency
Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), have already proven successful.
The regional program developed below expands on the idea and focus of
DHS regional offices should be required to strengthen
state and local preparedness capabilities; facilitate regional
cooperation among governments, the private sector, and non-governmental
organizations; and plan and exercise with federal entities that
support regional disaster response. Such offices would enable regions
to access and integrate their capabilities quickly and improve
DHS regional offices would have four key missions:
- Facilitating regional planning,
- Organizing regional exercises, training, and doctrine and professional development,
- Helping states and local communities to prepare for catastrophic events, and
- Coordinating critical infrastructure protection.
Establish an Undersecretary for Homeland Security.
Chief among the findings in the Second Stage Review was the importance
of establishing a secretariat with the capacity of overseeing the
department’s many activities. One of the most important requirements
identified in the review remains unfulfilled—establishing an
Undersecretary for Policy and Planning.
Since the Department of
Homeland Security was created, many have come to recognize that the
agency needs a high-level, high-powered office to develop policies that
bind the more than 22 federal entities consolidated within the
department, to coordinate with other federal agencies, and to manage
international affairs for the department. Congress has yet to
authorize an undersecretary for the department to supervise these
This shortfall is inexcusable. The policy and
planning requirements of the department have proven broad in scope and
vital in execution, from managing affairs overseas to attending to the
needs of state and local governments and the private sector.
Particularly important is the imperative of completing comprehensive
national disaster planning. Six years after 9/11, the federal
government still lacks a comprehensive regime for planning and
preparing for large-scale disasters.
In part, this shortfall is
the product of an inadequate interagency process, the means by which
federal agencies organize and cooperate with one another and their
partners in state and local government and the private sector. Fixing
the problem will require renewed vigor from the administration in
setting clear policy guidelines, particularly in implementing a
National Exercise Program, emphasizing the priority of interagency
disaster preparedness for the National Planning Scenarios, and
improving professional development.
Accomplishing these tasks requires the leadership of a homeland
security department leader with suitable rank and scope of
Rethink Container Security Mandate.
Finally, Congress should begin to systematically review some of its
most impractical mandates. In 2006, Congress mandated the Secured
Freight Initiative to test the efficacy of inspecting 100 percent of
shipping containers coming from overseas for terrorist threats. The
current system, set by the Container Security Initiative, scans only
"high-risk" containers. In 2007, Congress proceeded to mandate 100
percent inspection even before the tests had started. This shortfall
should be addressed in authorization legislation.
should establish an independent, bipartisan commission to study the
results of the Secure Freight Initiative and the mandate for 100
percent screening of shipping containers and air cargo. This commission
should assess the likely threats and look into alternatives for
securing global supply chains. The commission should report its
findings after the 2008 presidential elections. Congress could then
return to the issue in early 2009 with the politics of the election
behind it. Based on the results of the commission’s recommendations,
Congress should then modify the 100 percent mandate so that U.S.
policy bolsters security and prosperity equally well.
3. End Unwarranted Restructuring
One of the most troubling practices of Congress has been to
periodically impose reorganization mandates on DHS. The constant
turmoil imposed on the Department of Homeland Security has adversely
affected operations, distracted the leadership, and slowed the process
of establishing effective processes and procedures. The first priority
of Congress should be to end unwarranted tinkering.
problematic are continuing calls to move the Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA) out of the department. Such proposals misread
the lessons of Katrina and fail to comprehend the true nature of the
federal role in disaster response.
Moving FEMA out of the department or any other major restructuring at
this time would only further slow the development of the department as
an effective organization. At the very least, Congress should impose a
moratorium on restructuring or rethinking the department’s roles and
missions until after the department delivers and Congress deliberates
on the first Quadrennial Security Review.
Beyond the short-term
priorities of consolidating congressional jurisdiction, establishing
authorization legislation, and refraining from restructuring the
department, Congress should begin to look to the long-term demands of
homeland security. Here there are two areas worthy of attention: 1)
establishing a national homeland security enterprise; and 2) improving
Homeland Security 3.0
For future improvements to homeland security, Congress should look not
primarily to the department or even to the federal government.
Congress should increasingly turn its attention to the national
homeland security enterprise, which includes every level of government,
every community, and the private sector.
Working together with
the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), The Heritage
Foundation has convened a working group to examine the priorities for
improving the overall state of homeland security. We have identified
five areas that require particular attention. They include:
- Domestic Intelligence.
Six years after 9/11, the United States has yet to fully articulate a
concept for domestic intelligence that completely addresses 21st
century threats, the promise of modern technology, and the demands of
protecting the rights of our citizens.
- Human Capital.
At every level of governance and throughout the private sector the
nation needs a corps of individuals with the skills, knowledge, and
attributes required to fulfill the complex duties associated with
ensuring domestic security, facilitating economic growth, and
protecting individual liberty.
- Community Preparedness.
The best preparation for disasters is facilitating a culture of
preparedness that empowers and enables individuals and communities to
take care of themselves during disaster, rather than becoming
increasingly dependent on Washington for direction and resources.
Critical infrastructure protection has become an increasingly expensive
and unsuitable concept for ensuring the continued delivery of goods and
services in the face of terrorist threats. U.S. policies would be
better served by moving toward a strategy relying on counterterrorism
measures to thwart attacks, while focusing on the resiliency of
infrastructure and the capacity to continue to provide services or
quickly recover in the event of a terrorist attack.
- International Cooperation.
Homeland security is a global mission. From securing the border to
protecting global supply chains, virtually every aspect of preventing
terrorist attacks has an international dimension that requires the
United States to work effectively with friends and allies.
CSIS–Heritage Foundation Task Force plans to provide specific
recommendations in each of these areas in their report that will be
released in September. I look forward to the opportunity to brief
Congress on their findings.
The very rationale for creating the Department of Homeland
Security—the imperative of integrating the many agencies and activities
that bear on domestic security—highlights one of Washington’s greatest
enduring shortfalls, one that could well be addressed by the next
administration. In meeting complex challenges that transcend the core
competencies of a single department, government does a mediocre job in
marshalling all the resources required. Washington can do better—and
homeland security would be good place to start.
Even after the
consolidation of roles and missions in the department, many of the
essential tasks undertaken by the federal homeland security enterprise
rest with other departments. Ensuring all these agencies work together
more effectively would be a responsible goal for the transition.
Departments of Homeland Security, Defense, Health, State, and Justice,
as well as the other government agencies that bear responsibility for
elements of the homeland security enterprise, have separate and unique
capabilities, budgets, cultures, operational styles, and congressional
oversight committees. They even operate under different laws. Getting
them all organized during times of crisis and after disasters can be
like herding cats. For meeting the dangers of the 21st century,
interagency operations will be more important than ever.
Leave the Constitution Alone
The pressing demand for interagency reform does not require that the
federal government be reorganized. There is nothing wrong with the
underlying principles of American governance. Especially essential are
the constitutional "checks and balances" that divide federal power
between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. This
division entails not only sharing responsibility within and among the
branches of government but ensuring accountability and transparency in
the act of governing. Shortcutting, circumventing, centralizing,
undermining, or obfuscating constitutional responsibilities does not
make democratic government work better.
principle of federalism is also imperative. Embodied in the U.S.
Constitution, the imperatives of limited government and federalism give
citizens and local communities the greatest role in shaping their own
lives. The 10th Amendment states that "powers not delegated to the
United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States,
are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." In matters
relating to their communities, local jurisdictions and individuals
have the preponderance of authority and autonomy. This makes sense: The
people closest to the problem are the ones best equipped to find its
efforts at pulling together routinely fall short for the same reasons.
For its part, Washington can certainly do better—in large measure
simply by improving interagency operations. For in the long history of
interagency operations, the same problems spring up again and again.
Reason #1: Government undervalues individuals.
Human capital refers to the stock of skills, knowledge, and attributes
resident in the workforce. Throughout its history, Washington has paid
scant attention to recruiting, training, exercising, and educating
people to conduct interagency operations. Thus, at crucial moments,
success or failure often turns on happenstance—whether the right people
with the right talents just happen to be at the right job.
Reason #2: Washington lacks the lifeline of a guiding idea.
Doctrine is a body of knowledge for guiding joint action. Good doctrine
does not tell people what to think, but it guides them in how
to think—particularly in how to address complex, ambiguous, and
unanticipated challenges when time and resources are both hard pressed.
Unfortunately, throughout our nation’s history, government has seldom
bothered to exercise anything worthy of being called interagency
doctrine. The response to Katrina offers a case in point. The U.S.
government had the equivalent of a doctrine in the form of the National
Response Plan. Unfortunately, it had been signed only months before the
disaster and was barely practiced and little understood when disaster
Reason #3: Process cannot replace people.
At the highest levels of government, no organizational design,
institutional procedures, or legislative remedy has proved adequate to
overcome poor leadership and combative personalities. Presidential
leadership is particularly crucial to the conduct of interagency
During the course of history, Presidents have had
significant flexibility in organizing the White House to suit their
personal styles. That is all for the best. After all, the purpose of
the presidential staff is to help presidents lead, not tell them how to
lead. Leadership from Congress, especially from the committee chairs,
is equally vital. There is no way to gerrymander the authorities of the
committees to eliminate the necessity of competent, bi-partisan
leadership that puts the needs of the nation over politics and personal
And, in the end, no government reform can replace the
responsibility of the people to elect officials who can build trust and
confidence in government, select qualified leaders to run the
government, and demonstrate courage, character, and competence in
Making Washington Work
these issues requires a scalpel, not a sledgehammer. It would be a
mistake to think of interagency operations as a uniform,
one-size-fits-all activity requiring uniform, one-size-fits-all reforms.
highest rung of the interagency process is that of making interagency
policy and strategy. These are the tasks largely accomplished inside
the Washington Beltway by officials from the White House and heads of
federal agencies in cooperation and consultation with Congress. Over
the course of modern history, this has actually become the strongest
component of the interagency process. When it does fail, failure can
often be traced to people and personalities (inattentive Presidents or
squabbling Cabinet officials) more than to process.
performance at the highest level of interagency activities should
properly focus on the qualities and competencies of executive
leadership, as well as upon getting the best-quality information to the
leaders so that they can make the best-informed decisions.
activities stand on the second rung of the interagency process. These
activities comprise the overarching guidance, management, and
allocation of resources needed to implement the decisions made in
Washington. Arguably, it is at this level of government where
government’s record is most mixed.
Outside the Pentagon’s combat
command structure (which has staffs to oversee military operations in
different parts of the world), the U.S. government has few established
mechanisms with the capability to oversee complex contingences over a
wide geographical area either at home or overseas. Processes and
organizations are usually ad hoc. Some are successful. Others are dismal failures.
the domestic theater, it is a mistake to rely on a rigid federal
structure. Rather, what is required is an effective system of
organization based on a cooperative regional structure built around
the governance of individual states. The regional Department of
Homeland Security I outlined could significantly aid in facilitating
The third component of interagency activities is
field activities. That’s where the actual work gets done—rescuing
people stranded on rooftops, handing out emergency supplies,
administering vaccines, and supervising contractors. Here success and
failure usually turns on whether the government has correctly scaled
the solution to fit the problem.
Inside the United States, state
and local governments largely take care of their own affairs. When the
problems are manageable, these approaches work well. On the other hand,
when the challenges swell beyond the capacity of local leaders to
handle, as in the case of the response to Hurricane Katrina, more
robust support mechanisms are required. Arguably, what’s most needed at
the field level are: 1) better doctrine, 2) more substantial
investments in human capital (preparing people to do to the job before the crisis), and 3) appropriate decision-making—instituting the right doctrinal response when a crisis arises.
A generation ago, the U.S. military faced similar professional
development challenges in building a cadre of joint leaders—officers
competent in leading and executing multi-service operations. The
Goldwater–Nichols Act of 1986 mandated a solution that required
officers to have a mix of joint education, assignments, and board
accreditation to become eligible for promotion to general officer rank.
Goldwater–Nichols is widely credited with the successes in joint
military operations from Desert Storm to the War on Terrorism. The
recipe of education, assignment, and accreditation (EA&A) can be
used to develop professionals for other critical interagency national
EA&A program that cuts across all levels of government and the
private sector must start with professional schools specifically
designed to teach interagency skills. No suitable institutions exist in
Washington, academia, or elsewhere. The government will have to
establish them. Although the resident and non-resident programs of
many university and government schools and training centers can and
should play a part in interagency education, Washington’s institutions
should form the taproot of a national effort with national standards.
will also require interagency assignments in which individuals can
practice and hone their skills. These assignments should be at the
"operational" level so leaders can learn how to make things happen, not
just set policies. Identifying the right organizations and assignments
and ensuring that they are filled by promising leaders should be a
Accreditation and congressional involvement are
crucial to ensuring that these programs succeed and continue. Before
leaders are selected for critical (non-politically appointed) positions
in national security, they should be accredited by a board of
professionals in accordance with broad guidelines established by
Congress should require the creation of boards that:
1) establish educational requirements and accredit institutions needed
to teach national and homeland security, 2) screen and approve
individuals to attend schools and fill interagency assignments, and
3) certify individuals as interagency-qualified leaders. Congress
should also establish committees in the House and Senate with narrow
jurisdictions over key education, assignment, and accreditation
The Clock Is Ticking
In Washington the important is often sacrificed for the urgent. The
important, like reforming the interagency process, is put off until
later, but later never comes. Thank you for the opportunity to discuss
this and other issues critical to transitioning responsibility for
homeland security from this administration to the next.
more information on setting up DHS regional offices, see The Heritage
Foundation and The George Washington University Homeland Security
Policy Institute Task Force, "Empowering America: A Proposal for
Enhancing Regional Preparedness," Heritage Foundation Special Report No. 6, April 7, 2006, at www.heritage.org/Research/HomelandDefense/ SR06.cfm;
and Jill D. Rhodes and James Jay Carafano, "State and Regional
Responses to Disasters: Solving the 72-Hour Problem" Heritage
Foundation Backgrounder No. 1962, August 21, 2006, at www.heritage.org/Research/ HomelandSecurity/bg1962.cfm#_ftn2.
James Jay Carafano and Matt A. Mayer, "FEMA and Federalism: Washington
Is Moving in the Wrong Direction," Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 2032, May 8, 2007, at www.heritage.org/Research/HomelandDefense/bg2032.cfm; and James Jay Carafano, "Improving the National Response to Catastrophic Disaster," Heritage Foundation Testimony, September 15, 2005, at www.heritage.org/Research/HomelandSecurity/tst091505a.cfm.
 See James Jay Carafano and Richard Weitz, Mismanaging Mayhem: How Washington Responds to Crisis
(Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2008). This work includes a collection of
historical cases analyzing the effectiveness of interagency operations
since World War I.
 For the genesis and explanation of the Goldwater–Nichols reforms, see James R. Locher III, Victory on the Potomac: The Goldwater–Nichols Act Unifies the Pentagon (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2002).
reforms are described in James Jay Carafano, "Missing Pieces in
Homeland Security: Interagency Education, Assignments, and Professional
Accreditation," Heritage Foundation Executive Memorandum No. 1013,October 16, 2006, at www.heritage.org/Research/HomelandSecurity/em1013.cfm.