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.