HOMELAND INSECURITY

WaPo paints a bleak picture of the status of the Department of Homeland Security:

Six months after it was established to protect the nation from terrorism, the Department of Homeland Security is hobbled by money woes, disorganization, turf battles and unsteady support from the White House, and has made only halting progress toward its goals, according to administration officials and independent experts.

The top two officials under Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge are stepping down amid criticism from some White House officials and elsewhere in the administration. So few people want to work at the department that more than 15 people declined requests to apply for the top post in its intelligence unit — and many others turned down offers to run several other key offices, government officials said.

Desperately needed repairs to the department’s cramped, red-brick headquarters on a Navy facility in Northwest Washington have been stalled by a shortage of money. Some employees at the complex do not have the secure telephone lines required to do their work, the officials said.

As a result, the department has made little progress on some of the main challenges cited when it was created in March by merging 22 federal agencies and their 170,000 employees, according to officials in the Bush administration and Congress, as well as some outside experts. The Bush administration initially resisted establishing the department but eventually agreed.

Efforts to organize the government’s 10 or so disparate lists of potential terrorism suspects, secure airline cargo against terrorist plots and advise local police and firefighters on training and equipment have all foundered, the officials said.

“Not a lot is getting done at the top of the department, and nobody’s making them focus on it,” said a White House official who handles homeland security issues and who asked not to be identified. “Nobody’s got the fortitude to say, ‘Sit down and shut up.’ . . . It’s sad.”

Granting that people who speak to reporters under the cloak of anonymity often have hidden agendas, this is rather disturbing. While I never expected this reorganization to accomplish much, one would think at the minimum it would get high funding priority.

The fact that the Administration and Congress bowed to the pressure from D.C. officials to house the department in the Naval Yard rather than existing, modern office complexes in Chantilly was an early sign that politics was going to matter more than substance. But they’re apparently not even playing the politics smartly.

FILED UNDER: Terrorism
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. jen says:

    My aunt is management with TSA, she supervises the airport inspection office at their HQ. The last time I saw her a few months ago, she told me that the funding issue is so bad that she’s spending her own money for office supplies and she has a manager in the field who hadn’t been paid for months (despite her repeated phone calls to get that fixed). However, he’s dedicated and still working despite the lack of pay.

  2. jen says:

    And, no, she doesn’t have anything to do with deciding who gets stopped for the security checks at airports. She’s not that high up – just high enough that she has to implement it. Even she thinks it’s ridiculous to check a 90 year old grandmother who can barely stand on her own two feet.

  3. Paul says:

    With all due respect Jen, I’m sure his not geting paid is a red tape issue and not a lack of money. If that were the case, nobody would be paid.

    P

  4. jen says:

    Paul, it’s probably some of both. He was just one example of unpaid staff she mentioned, there are (were) others. And if it was just a red tape issu, then that’s a better indication of the problems than what’s reported, I think. That their people can’t even get paid?

  5. Biff says:

    Even she thinks it’s ridiculous to check a 90 year old grandmother who can barely stand on her own two feet.

    It really isn’t:

    http://www.cnn.com/2003/TRAVEL/07/17/gun.teddy.bear/

  6. Ok, who didn’t see this one coming?
    James Joyner links to a WaPo account of just how peachy things are going at the Department of Homeland Security. In short, it’s about as…