Jewish World Review Dec. 13, 2004 / 30 Kislev, 5765
Make new head of Homeland Security the fella who thought it up
If there is justice in this world, Sen.
Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn) will be the next Secretary of the
Department of Homeland Security.
This isn't because Lieberman is the best man for the job. Senators
typically are as good at managing large enterprises as teenagers are at
impulse control. Lieberman should get the job because DHS was his idea in
the first place. If it's a good idea, Lieberman should get the credit. But
if it's a bad idea, there would be cosmic justice if he were the one to get
I'm not convinced it was a good idea. The Department of Homeland Security
is a monster agency, 180,000 strong, cobbled together from 22 once separate
agencies with different purposes and wildly varying corporate cultures.
Getting all these fiefdoms to march to the beat of the same drummer would be
a formidable task for the best of managers.
We don't know how good (or how poor) a job Secretary Ridge has done, because
news coverage of DHS has been execrable. The birth pains of the second
largest cabinet department (after the Department of Defense) should be big
news, but journalists in Washington today seem unwilling or unable to cover
anything more complicated than the color-coded alert system.
Nothing bad has happened to us since 9/11, a prima facie indication that the
Department of Homeland Security must be doing something right. But
knowledgeable observers like former Coast Guard officer Stephen Flynn, now
with the Council on Foreign Relations, contend we're no safer now than we
were three years ago.
"It's just a huge bureaucracy that people can't seem to get their hands
around," a senior DHS staffer told the American Spectator. "I think we've
done the very best job we can to get the various parts together under one
roof, but it hasn't been smooth or easy. There are still a ton of turf wars
breaking out here day in and day out."
It made enormous sense to put some of these organizations together -- for
instance, to combine the Coast Guard, the Customs Service, the Border Patrol
and the Immigration and Naturalization Service into a single agency
responsible for border security.
When the Coast Guard was part of the department of Transportation, the
Customs Service part of Treasury, the Border Patrol and INS part of Justice,
all were stepchildren which received little attention and less funding, and
there was much duplication, but little cooperation, among them.
But the only sound argument for removing transportation security from the
Department of Transportation is that it got the Transportation Security
Administration (the second largest agency, after the Coast Guard, in DHS)
out of the inept hands of Secretary Norm Mineta, whose chief concern about
airport screening was that it might offend the sensibilities of Muslims.
Border security doesn't have much in common with transportation security,
which doesn't have a lot to do with protecting nuclear power plants or the
transmission grid, or with training policemen and firemen to respond to
chemical, biological and radiological attacks. Lumping all these disparate
functions together tends to create more headaches than cooperation.
But it was politics, not sensible management structure, that was on Sen.
Lieberman's mind when he proposed creation of an over arching Department of
Homeland Security. He was preparing to run for president, and after 9/11,
he needed something to burnish his national security credentials, but which
would distinguish him from President Bush. DHS fit the bill.
And it was good politics when Bush, after initially opposing creation of
this mammoth department, embraced it, thus cutting the rug out from under
It would be good politics for Bush to appoint Lieberman to be Ridge's
successor. It would show bipartisanship, and it would grow the GOP majority
in the Senate, because Connecticut's governor, who would appoint Lieberman's
successor if he left the Senate, is a Republican.
But good politics isn't the same as good government.
DHS should serve as a cautionary tale. Problems caused in large part by
bureaucratic ineptitude rarely are eased by building bigger bureaucracies.
Moving boxes around on an organizational chart does not compensate for a
lack of competent personnel and adequate resources where the rubber meets
the road. We should bear this in mind as we contemplate intelligence
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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a
deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan
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