A New Direction in Homeland Security?

, Bethany Stotts, Leave a comment

At the inception of the Department of Homeland Security, the DHS was presented with what national security specialist and Vice President of the Center for National Policy (CNP) Scott Bates termed a “herculean task,” the duty to synthesize a “pandemic of plans” into a cohesive, comprehensive national security strategy. The Bush Administration has issued two such strategies, the most recent of which was released in October 2007. However, some national security experts question whether the strategy publication marks a real change in national policy.

“I think to call [National Strategy for Homeland Security] a strategy is really a misnomer,” argued Clark Ervin, the Director of the Aspen Institute Homeland Security Initiative, at an October Heritage Foundation panel to evaluate the strategy’s effectiveness. “It really is to me a statement of goals, it’s a statement of strategic objectives…what it lacks is a statement of details as to…exactly how to achieve these ends that we all agree with must be achieved, and where we are in achieving it.”
Ervin assigned the DHS a ‘C’ for its progress toward linking national security objectives to practical solutions, and a ‘D’ for executing its programs. Bates concurred with Ervin, arguing that “the outlines, the structure of how we respond to homeland security is indeed very sound. However, the resources dedicated to the mission, and the execution and the follow-through have been problematic and sometimes weak.” Bates also criticized the resources allocated for homeland security and the urgent priority placed on such initiatives as inadequate for a “nation at war.”

According to the OMB, the DHS spent $39.3 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2005, $69.1 billion in FY2006, and estimates a budget of $43.2 billion for FY 2008. The actual effectiveness of these expenditures, however, is mixed. Expectmore.gov ranks 32.81% of the DHS programs as “Results Not Demonstrated,” 25% “Adequate,” and 28.13% “Moderately Effective.” The best-performing DHS programs—ranked “Effective” by the OMB—composed the smallest portion of rankings and totaled 14.06%. No DHS programs were classified as “Ineffective.” DHS expenditures were largely concentrated in “Moderately Effective” programs such as Immigration Services, the Coast Guard Migrant Interdiction Program, and Border Security and Control between Ports of Entry. According to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), 85% of the DHS budget was dedicated to adequate or better programs.

Another difficulty hindering a comprehensive national security strategy may be the increased partisanship and internal conflict resulting from the Iraq War. Bates argues that fragmented politics hinder homeland security progress, and that “sadly, after 9/11 [America] had great bipartisanship on this issue of homeland security, and it has really gone downhill in the last couple years, because of Iraq and because of petty politics on the hill right over here, scoring cheap points.” He added that “the American people have to demand more. That’s the only time politicians pay attention, frankly.”

However, David Heyman, Senior Director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, questioned the peculiar timing of the strategy’s release, noting that it was published only a year before a change in administration. He argues that the War on Terror rhetoric which is woven through the DHS document is meant to consolidate executive power during the remaining years of the George W. Bush presidency, because the concept of the War on Terror “does not necessarily help the strategy document, but it does help in terms of executive agents having additional powers to implement things because of the notion of us being at war.”

Most of the criticism of the updated National Strategy for Homeland Security revolved around the need for concrete application. “The agency needs to focus on the results today, not developing new strategies,” argued Heyman. Frank Cilluffo, Director of the Homeland Policy Institute at George Washington University characterized the new strategy as a “legacy document” and a “missed opportunity” because “it’s not making the case for where we need to be tomorrow…”

Bethany Stotts is a staff writer for Accuracy in Academia.