Gallery I
Super Bureaucracy
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Cut The Deficit – Break Down The Department Of Homeland Security

By James Donahue

After the attacks of 9-11, President George W. Bush declared a War on Terror, launched two wars in the Middle East, and created the complex and costly bureaucracy called the Department of Homeland Security. That department, which involves a cabinet position, absorbed a long list of new and existing government agencies. It now functions with 216,000 employees and sucks up an annual budget of $52 billion.

Since the agencies that guard our nation’s borders were already functioning quite well before 9-11, it is impossible to say whether pulling them all together under the umbrella of a single department served any purpose. What Bush did was create more bureaucracy, more government red tape and certainly more headaches for the people hired to actually keep our nation safe. And there can be little doubt that reshuffling so many departments has put an additional financial burden on the nation.

The agencies within the department are: the Customs Service, Coast Guard, Secret Service, Citizenship and Immigration Services, Border Patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Federal Protective Service, Transportation Security Administration, Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Office for Domestic Preparedness, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Strategic National Stockpile, National Disaster Medical Systems, Nuclear Incident Response Team, Domestic Emergency Support Teams, National Domestic Preparedness Office, the CBRN Countermeasures Programs, Environmental Measurements Laboratory, National BW Defense Analysis Center, Plum Island Animal Disease Center, Federal Computer Incident Response Center, National Communications System, National Protection and Programs Directorate and the Energy Security and Assurance Program.

Could you say the above one-sentence paragraph in one breath? Do you have any idea what many of those departments do? Have you ever tried to call one of those offices for information or personal assistance? The conglomerate sounds so incredibly complex it is difficult to imagine how so many departments can all coordinate their functions, or how Department Secretary Janet Napolitano can keep them all straight.

But wait, there is more. Other agencies tucked within Homeland Security include the office of Domestic Nuclear Detection, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, the National Protection and Programs Directorate, the Directorate for Science and Technology, Directorate for Management, the Office of Policy, Office of Health Affairs, Office of Intelligence and Analysis, Office of Operations Coordination, the National Cyber Security Center and the Office of the Secretary.

The Office of the Secretary oversees the Privacy Office, Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Office of Inspector General, Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman, Office of Legislative Affairs, Office of the General Counsel, Office of Public Affairs, Office of Counternarcotics Enforcement, Office of the Executive Secretariat and the Military Advisor’s Office.

As if the above agencies and advisory agencies don’t have enough trouble keeping the operations within the Office of Homeland Security straight, we must consider the various advisory groups apparently designed to give advice to all of the above. They include the Homeland Security Advisory Council, the National Infrastructure Advisory Council, the Homeland Security Science and Technology Advisory Committee, the Critical Infrastructure Partnership Advisory Council, the Interagency Coordinating Council on Emergency Preparedness and Individuals with Disabilities and the Task Force on New Americans.

With such a hodge-podge of agencies, councils, advisors and directors all flopping around like a bunch of live minnows dumped into the bottom of a dry bucket it was small wonder that the response to Hurricane Katrina, the first major disaster to happen after 9-11, was poorly orchestrated and too late to save lives or even offer much help to a lot of very desperate Americans. It took the National Guard and local police and emergency services to rescue people from those flooded houses and bring emergency relief.

Instead of helping at the Katrina disaster site, FEMA officials were accused of interfering. Government officials turned away three Wal-Mart trailer trucks loaded with water, diverted trucks laden with ice, blocked the Coast Guard from delivering 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel and weeks late, brought portable mobile housing to the area laced with building materials containing so much formaldehyde they made people living in them sick.

We might also question the agencies response to the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion, fire and oil spill that ravaged the Gulf Coast earlier this year. Nobody in government seemed to know what to do other than leave the job of fixing the mess up to British Petroleum, the very people that caused it.

Fortunately the professionals at the border patrol, Immigration and Customs, the Coast Guard and Secret Service already knew their jobs and continued performing them as best they could, in spite of agency interference.

We might also be grateful that the FBI and other special agencies that guard our country were not drawn into the control of the Department of Homeland Security. They have been operating on their own and apparently doing an outstanding job of tracking and stopping potential terrorist threats from within our borders.

As we might imagine when we put together a super bureaucracy the size of the Department of Homeland Security, it is not hard to find evidence of excessive spending, waste and ineffectiveness. One congressional study in 2008 exposed estimated wasted expenditures totaling about $15 billion in failed contracts that year alone.

Another audit uncovered an estimated $2 billion in waste and fraud from widespread misuse of government credit cards by department employees. Among the wasted expenses were $70,000 in plastic dog booties and boats purchased at twice the retail price with many of them not found in inventory.

An Associated Press report in September, 2007, exposed a $42 million expense for an anti-terrorism data mining computer tool that was scrapped after pilot testing showed that it misidentified and erroneously associated innocent citizens with those connected with criminal or terrorist activity

Just the tip of the iceberg perhaps?

It should not be a surprise that a 2006 survey revealed very low morale among staff workers in nearly all departments.

We suggest dismantling this monster of an agency, sorting out the wheat from the chaff, shutting down all of those councils, boards and agencies born from bureaucratic flim-flam that fail to do anything of value for either man nor beast. We might just save enough here to keep a few schools and universities operating in the black and put all of our laid-off teachers back to work.