Separation of Powers

Jacob Salum is amused by what he terms “the name game:”

After 9/11, Congress decided we needed a department dedicated to defending Americans from foreign attacks. Since we already had a “Department of Defense” (what is it they do again?), the new bureaucratic entity was dubbed the “Department of Homeland Security.” Now, in response to criticism of the government’s failure to prevent the September 11 attacks, the White House is contemplating a plan to appoint a central authority to coordinate U.S. intelligence. Since the title “director of central intelligence” is already taken, the administration is considering “director of national intelligence” instead.

Similarly, prohibitionists periodically complain that our so-called drug czar, who runs the Office of National Drug Control Policy, lacks real authority to direct anti-drug efforts. Perhaps what we need is a drug tsar, in charge of the National Office of Drug Control Policy.

Insert your Monty Python “Department of Redundancy Department” joke here.

While I hate the name, a Department of Homeland Security, separate from the Department of Defense, is probably a good idea. DHS has predominately internal functions; DoD predominantly external ones. The problem with DHS, aside from the rather creepy name, is that far too many of its logical functions are still contained in other agencies, notably DoJ.

The DCI and drug czar have different problems: they have responsibility but little authority. The DCI is nominally in charge of the entire U.S. intelligence community (IC) but in reality only controls the CIA, of which he is dual-hatted as “Director.” Most of the IC is contained within DoD, controlled by the SecDef, with other parts under the DoJ, State, and other agencies. The DCI has little bureaucratic control and no budgetary control over any of those sectors. The drug czar has even less power, since he’s not really in charge of anything, having to beg the Attorney General, HHS secretary, and various state and local agencies to do things. He has the additional burden that his job would be virtually impossible even if he had complete bureaucratic and budgetary authority over the drug issue, given that he’s fighting against an intractible problem.

A side issue is that we have far too many acronyms. Perhaps we should have an Acronymn Czar (AC)?

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. McGehee says:

    Hmmm. “Department of Defending the Homeland Against Enemy States That Do Not Have a Ministry of Silly Walks”…