Alexander's Column

The Department of Homeland Security

Mark Alexander · Jun. 7, 2002

Thursday, President Bush officially proposed creation of a cabinet level Department of Homeland Security, a super agency that would constitute the largest reorganization of the central government since President Harry Truman unified the armed forces into the DoD in 1947.

The President stated: “After September the 11th, we needed to move quickly, and so I appointed Tom Ridge as my homeland security adviser. As…we learned more about the plans and capabilities of the terrorist network, we have concluded that our government must be reorganized to deal more effectively with the new threats of the 21st century. Tonight, over 60,000 American troops are deployed around the world in the war against terror – more than 7,000 in Afghanistan, others in the Philippines, Yemen and the Republic of Georgia to train local forces. Our coalition is strong. More than 90 nations have arrested or detained over 2,400 terrorists and their supporters. More than 180 countries have offered or are providing assistance in the war on terrorism. The first and best way to secure America’s homeland is to attack the enemy where he hides and plans, and we’re doing just that. … Yet we now know that thousands of trained killers are plotting to attack us…. Right now, as many as a hundred different government agencies have some responsibilities for homeland security, and no one has final accountability. The reason to create this department is … to increase its focus and effectiveness. The staff of this new department will be largely drawn from the agencies we are combining. By ending duplication and overlap, we will spend less on overhead and more on protecting America.”

The new Department would fold together HomSec responsibilities now performed by 170,000 federal employees with dozens of federal agencies – primarily INS, Customs, FEMA, Secret Service, Coast Guard and Border Patrol. Those agencies are now subject to oversight by 88 Congressional committees, meaning Washington’s power structure is also undergoing its largest reorganization in history. DoHS would be responsible for synthesis and analysis of HomSec intelligence; securing borders, transportation sectors, ports, and critical infrastructure nodes; coordinating countermeasures against WMD threats; coordinating threat communications with state and local governments and the public and training and equipping first responders. These responsibilities would fall under four DoHS divisions: Border and Transportation Security, Emergency Preparedness and Response, Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Countermeasures, and Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection.

Though the reasoning behind the President’s proposal is sound, The Federalist has significant concerns, foremost being about the effectiveness of centralizing responsibility for these HomSec measures, as government centralization often produces bureaucratic mission creep and inertia that is counterproductive and eludes oversight and accountability. Regarding accountability, we also have serious concerns, as we noted after the President’s appointment of his Homeland Security Advisor last September, about the potential for civil liberty abuses by this Department – particularly under a future Leftist administration similar to the former Clinton regime. And we strongly object to the appointment of Tom Ridge, as DoHS Secretary. As we noted last year, the announcement of Ridge’s post and appointment was a last minute addendum to the president’s September 20 speech.

Tom Ridge is the “Norm Mineta” of Homeland Security, and if he is confirmed, that should give all American patriots pause. For the record, Tom Ridge has broken with the doctrine of his faith, in that he is a “pro-choice Catholic” (oxymoron), leading one to question how closely he will adhere to constitutional doctrine. Mr. Ridge has certainly broken with conservative doctrine. As a member of Congress while Ronald Reagan was in office, he voted for the so-called “nuclear freeze” and Pat Schroeder’s plan to bar nuclear tests above one kiloton, to abolish the MX missile, to deny funding for the Nicaraguan Contras, and he led the charge against missile defense. He has also – ironically – failed to defend the Second Amendment – a key constitutional provision for Homeland Security – against legislative assault.

As HomSec advisor, Ridge has rejected terrorist profiling. “To those Americans who would lash out at your fellow citizens simply because they worship differently or dress differently or look differently than you do, there is a word for such behavior: TERRORISM,” Ridge said when appointed. He added, “We will continue to secure liberty, as we secure this nation. Liberty is the most precious gift we offer to our citizens. (We reminded Mr. Ridge that "liberty” is an unalienable, God-given right, which the government is instituted to protect, not something Washington bureaucrats can dole out and restrict like candy to children.)

The Federalist will be closely monitoring the evolution of the new Department of Homeland Security for its potential implication on our liberty as a people.

In other news, Mr. Bush dispatched his hottest hand, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, off to conclude planned visits to NATO allies with a swing around the Persian Gulf and stops by co-belligerent nuclear neighbors Pakistan and India. The extended itinerary was ostensibly intended to stave off an Asian subcontinent nuclear exchange, but from what we have heard of Mr. Rumsfeld’s formulations, sure sounds to us like one of the easiest solutions to the terror equation is subtraction of the Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein: “We know that Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq has had a sizable appetite for weapons of mass destruction…. We know the borders into that country are quite porous. There is not a doubt in the world that with every month that goes by their [WMD] programs mature.”

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