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January 19, 2015

Another Costly Failure?  

John Adams wrote in 1776, “Fear is the foundation of most governments; but it is so sordid and brutal a passion, and renders men in whose breasts it predominates so stupid and miserable, that Americans will not be likely to approve of any political institution which is founded on it.” Yet, here We as Americans in 2015 are saddled with fear so pervasive that we acquiesce to a government no longer dedicated to the idea of individual liberty but to a security state not unlike that of Orwells “Nineteen Eighty-Four.” Perhaps the saddest measure of this folly is that the American People pay and pay dearly with little actual result. A Review of the Department of Homeland Security’s Missions and Performance, A Report by Senator Tom Coburn – Ranking Member Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs U.S. Senate 113th Congress published January 2015 lays out the abject failure of Homeland Security. Here is what the report states:

1. The Department of Homeland Security’s primary counterterrorism programs are  yielding little value for the nation’s counterterrorism efforts.

2. The nation’s borders remain unsecure.

3. The Department of Homeland Security is not effectively administering or enforcing the nation’s immigration laws, and some of the immigration programs the agency manages have significant vulnerabilities.

4. The Department of Homeland Security is struggling to execute its responsibilities for cybersecurity, and its strategy and programs are unlikely to protect us from the  adversaries that pose the greatest cybersecurity threat.

5. The Department of Homeland Security is federalizing the response to manmade and natural disasters by subsidizing state, local, and private sector activity.

Not a good report card at all. If a Non government entity failed in its primary mission as miserably as this its very existence would be in question. Yet, you can bet that what will result from this report will be additional funding and expansion of DHS. Coburn’s report does make some recommendations for reforming DHS and  the nation’s approach to homeland security. They are:

Reforming Congress’s dysfunctional approach to overseeing the Department and setting its priorities, including overcoming the political and parochial interests that too often shape our programs, even those that relate to our national security.

Congress and the Department must refocus its programs and missions on national  priorities and the federal government’s duties related to domestic security, where DHS has lead responsibility. Specifically, the following recommendations are made for the Department’s five main mission areas:

DHS should refocus its counterterrorism and protective security mission on areas where it has a lead responsibility within the federal government and can make measurable improvements in the nation’s security, such as securing the nation’s borders, skies, and waterways, effectively tracking and monitoring persons entering and exiting the country, and enforcing immigration laws. DHS must successfully execute its federal protective security responsibilities. The Department must prioritize securing the border. This includes improving DHS's use of existing resources, as well as increasing transparency to Congress and the public about the state of border security and what resources are needed.

DHS must improve its administration of the immigration system and recommit to enforcing the rule of law to deter illegal immigration. DHS should reform or end immigration benefit programs that are vulnerable to criminal and national security threats.

For cybersecurity, DHS’s first job should be to set an example by becoming a model of effective cybersecurity and assisting OMB with its oversight of civilian agency information security. For its other cybersecurity programs, DHS should reconsider its current strategy, which focuses largely on vulnerability mitigation and which will likely prove ineffective in preventing the most serious cyber security threats.

For disaster relief and emergency management, federal aid should be focused on emergencies and disasters that require the federal government to step in to help American citizens whose lives are in jeopardy, and which truly overwhelm the ability of state and local governments. FEMA’s programs for subsidizing state and local emergency management and public safety, including the preparedness grant programs and disaster assistance for routine events, should be ended.

While reconsidering how the Department can achieve its missions and execute its responsibilities that are national priorities and clear responsibilities of DHS and the federal government, Congress should end DHS’s many programs that are unnecessary, ineffective, or duplicative of other efforts.

Another important recommendation is that Congress must give the Secretary of Homeland Security the authority to lead, manage, and reform the Department and change its dysfunctional culture. For too long, the Department’s leadership has been unable to effectively manage its many components and directorates, and unify the Department to achieve its missions and responsibilities. Secretary Jeh Johnson has made an admirable attempt to manage the Department, including his “Unity of Effort” initiative, but much work remains to implement effective management and unity across the Department. Congress should entrust DHS’s leadership with real authority to manage the Department and change its culture. This will include reforming its workforce.

Congress and DHS must also focus on earning and restoring the American people’s trust. This includes ensuring that all of the Department’s programs and operations are consistent with the American people’s Constitutional rights and the proper role of the federal government. Too many of DHS’s programs have faced questions in this regard. We have also witnessed incidents where the Department’s programs have raised concerns about excessive federal authority or otherwise contributed to some of the public’s distrust of law enforcement. Congress has a duty to conduct vigorous and persistent oversight of DHS’s programs to ensure that they are operating in a manner consistent with the Constitution.

* * *

The Department of Homeland Security has spent in 2012 $59,971,487, in 2013 $60,685,344 and in 2014 $59,959,337. The President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 Budget Request for DHS is $38.2 billion. Coburn’s Report states, “The nation continues to face a fiscal crisis. The national debt exceeds $18 trillion. On the current course, the federal government’s debt will continue to grow as the federal government continues to borrow and spend more than it collects in taxes and revenues and as more of the nation’s long-term obligations and promises come due. The basic choice facing Congress and our leaders is whether we will dramatically increase the tax burden on current and future generations, inflate or devalue our currency and the American public’s savings to minimize our debts, or sensibly reform the federal government’s programs. When it comes to reforming the government’s programs, the Department of Homeland Security should be at the top of Congress’s "to do” list. DHS is responsible for some of the federal government’s most important responsibilities, including preventing terrorist attacks, securing our borders, skies, waterways, and transportation systems, protecting national leaders and assets, administering and enforcing our immigration laws, and responding to national emergencies. Yet the evidence available from ten years of oversight presented in this report shows that DHS is not successfully executing its key missions. Reconsidering and reforming the Department of Homeland Security and its programs is a historic opportunity for Congress, the executive branch, and the American public. Refocusing DHS on the national priorities and federal responsibilities where the Department is the lead agency and empowering DHS’s leadership to execute its missions effectively and in a manner consistent with the Constitution will strengthen our nation’s security, improve our stewardship of resources, and demonstrate that our nation is committed to meeting its challenges.“

All this proves that when Federal Government programs that are based on fears the American people might have or that are exaggerated by politicians in order to expand their power and influence generally fail in their real purpose and beget only more and more expenditures on foolish and ineffectual programs.

Congress is tasked with the responsibility of oversight for all Federal Government programs. How can the American People possibly believe that they are being represented in their government when Federal Government Programs fail in attaining their original purpose? Are We being served?

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