- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 20, 2008




hen I retired from public service in May 2005, I had just completed four years in the trenches helping shape legislation that created the Department of Homeland Security and participating with a multitude of hardworking Americans trying to implement that legislation.

Despite an overall sense of extraordinary accomplishment, I left as a very frustrated bureaucrat - frustrated because somehow we failed to advance the ball farther down the field. The next president will have the opportunity to provide a good dose of reshaping and re-energizing DHS. I recommend a “Return to Basics” approach: first, a credible review of the functional areas currently under DHS’ purview, and second, a public affirmation of the agency’s strategic goals.

The functional area review would provide the framework for the next steps. Step One must be a very clear job description for the department. The description would likely be a synthesis of the 2002 Homeland Security Act (the legislation that created the DHS), subsequent executive orders issued by the current administration, and countless efforts by Congress to provide focus to the department. Step Two should be to identify and fill the process and policy gaps uncovered as the new job description is constructed. Step Three should be a challenge to the extant organizational structure to match the new job description. This was actually done very well by Secretary Michael Chertoff´s team with the Second Stage Review in the summer of 2005 as they took over DHS leadership.

Mr. Chertoff made several crucial changes to improve departmental focus and functionalities. Unfortunately, the most important one - the creation of the undersecretary for preparedness - was stymied by congressional meddling in departmental organization in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. President 44 will have a chance to redress this and provide a framework for good DHS leadership through organizational structure. Selecting the right leadership team, one that will make all these steps meaningful and constructive, will go a long way toward providing national success at DHS. This department is extraordinarily complex. DHS is still in the middle of a seven- to 10-year process to find a common agency culture and eliminate the inefficiencies and redundancies among the agencies. This has proven to be very difficult, especially given fragmented and overlapping oversight from too many congressional committees.

President 44 must also provide a sense of direction, a set of strategic goals that will offer long-term purpose for the entire department. Too often, DHS is stuck in the tyranny of the present and is reacting instead of designing a secure future for Tom Ridge, we identified six strategic goals to guide our work. They are awareness, prevention, protection, response, recovery and 21. They have stood the test of time well and the next administration would do well to emulate them. The first five are relatively self-explanatory, but they must be thought of as a sequence of crucial concepts that represent DHS´ spectrum of operational responsibility. When combined with the accepted notion that DHS should be an “All-Hands” agency - responsible for safeguarding Americans from both natural and man-made events - the sequence becomes a set of categories that guide policy development, actual projects and tactical day-to-day work. President 44 should reaffirm his support for those goals and insist that unless a proposed effort fits into one or more of the five categories, it should not be performed by DHS.

The sixth strategic goal, 21, bears explanation. DHS has a chance to be the first 21st-century Cabinet-level agency instead of simply another 20th-century entity. President can insist that 21 be translated to creative innovation, especially in the backroom functions. An enterprisewide architecture for the department´s chief information officer could embrace all the IT projects from 22 agencies that form DHS. A modern human resources system, one that is keyed to performance rather than longevity, should no longer be a crazy idea, but rather a starting point for all of government functions. The procurement and acquisition functions that have provided so many controversial moments, DHS must be centralized with adequate accountability for those responsible. All of these backroom functions can be optimized if adequate direction is provided and accountability demanded. DHS can become the model for others to follow.

I would also encourage President 44 to direct his new DHS secretary to do the following: First, he or she needs to forge public-private partnerships in areas where the private sector clearly has the superior talent or technology. Second, Homeland Security Advisory Committee needs to be the conduit to the private sector and academe … one that actually solves problems in short timelines.

Last, I would encourage President 44 to recognize how important it is for DHS to be part of leading the nation away from what this sailor recognizes as being “in irons.” We must, as a nation, get past our 50-50, red-blue, partisan gridlock that greatly inhibits decision-making. DHS and other government agencies would be rejuvenated overnight if their work would not be hamstrung by partisan obstinacy, as in the immigration policy standoff of 2007.

Bottom line, America deserves better productivity from its government. Provided strategic direction, role clarity, process and organization efficiency, and aggressive leadership, DHS can meet all the expectations of the American people.

James M. Loy is a former deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.



Click to Read More

Click to Hide