Insecure About Homeland Security

The Washington Post has an interesting, and troubling, story about the problems at the Department of Homeland Security.  According to the article, the agency is faced with tremendously low morale, high employee turnover, and a toxic bureaucratic environment.

The DHS was created after 9/11 and was supposed to unite a host of separate agencies that had some security role.  Its constituent agencies include the Customs Service, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Secret Service, the Transportation Security Administration, the Coast Guard, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  Coordinating the different cultures and practices of such diverse agencies would be a challenge, and the Post piece indicates that the DHS has made a hash of it, creating a highly bureaucratic environment that frustrates employees and managers.

A dysfunctional, overly bureaucratic federal agency — who could imagine such a thing?  It may be the norm, but in the case of the DHS the constant turnover, unfilled positions, and bureaucratic gamesmanship could easily have real world consequences.  The Post article notes, for example, that recent testing has shown that the blue-uniformed TSA employees at who operate all of those scanners are increasingly missing weapons or explosives being brought through security.  What is the point of spending billions for high-tech scanners at airports if the TSA employees can’t properly interpret the scanning data?  In the modern world where so many terrorist groups are looking to launch another deadly operation, we simply cannot afford security agencies who aren’t properly performing their jobs.

The TSA is only one example of a problem agency within the DHS.  Whether it is defense against cybersecurity attacks, or securing the border, or dealing with the influx of immigrant minors, the DHS is tasked with tough assignments and is widely perceived as botching them.  The plummeting morale at the DHS isn’t helping matters, either.  A survey performed last year showed that the DHS ranked dead last among large agencies.

The DHS has an important job.  With the constant threats made against America by the likes of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and al-Qaeda, you would think that effective leaders could generate energized agencies where employees understood the significance of their roles and had high morale because of the crucial nature of their work in protecting their families and friends from attack.  Instead, the DHS is a morass of infighting and leaden bureaucratic procedures that hinder effective performance.

The Post article paints an ugly picture, one that should make us all feel less secure about the Department of Homeland Security.

Securing The Border

Yesterday President Obama asked for $3.7 billion in emergency funding to address what clearly has become a crisis along America’s southwestern border.  The crisis is a huge influx of unaccompanied teenagers and children — estimated to number more than 52,000 since October — who have flooded across the border.

The $3.7 billion requested would be used primarily for two purposes.  $1.8 billion would go to providing food, shelter, and health care for the immigrants, who currently are housed on military bases, in Border Patrol facilities, and in other temporary quarters.  Another $1.6 billion would be used to hire immigration judges and expedite the immigration process.  The remaining $300 million would assist the central American countries from which the minors have come.  The Administration, which contends that many of the minors are escaping drug cartels and sex-trafficking rings, proposes to use drone aircraft and other means to try to improve the security situation in those countries.

We’ll have to see the details, but what seems to be lacking from the Administration’s proposal is any real focus on or commitment to physically securing the border so that people cannot cross in the first place.  If 52,000 unaccompanied minors have been able to make it to U.S. soil, our border obviously is porous.  How many adults have reached American territory and, unlike the minors, eluded capture?  If we cannot control who enters our country, we have serious security problems — and if we don’t address that fundamental issue, the flood will continue and the billions of dollars requested by the Administration will simply be the first of a series of stopgap measures.

I agree with providing humanitarian aid to the minors who have come to our country, but we cannot be a permanent refuge for any child or teenager who crosses the border — and then ultimately wants to seek asylum for the parents who may have sent them across the border for that purpose in the first place.  There’s something fishy about the suddenness of the influx of unaccompanied minors across the border, and we also need to understand why the recent surge of immigrant minors has occurred.  Have crime and living conditions in Mexico and central America really deteriorated so dramatically that it could explain a huge increase in children simply deciding, on their own, to begin the long trek north?