It’s time to reform and reauthorize the Department of Homeland Security, says the department’s acting secretary, Elaine Duke.
On that score, she has the support of her predecessor, retired Gen. John Kelly, now the White House chief of staff.
In Sept. 27 testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Duke addressed the threats to the homeland and the need for “a more integrated approach, bringing together intelligence, operations, interagency engagement, and international action like never before.”
Responsible for a wide array of missions and facing threats that are often evolving, the Department of Homeland Security must adapt in order to effectively and efficiently deal with those threats. Reauthorizing DHS is integral to doing that.
The House of Representatives in July passed the DHS Authorization Act, taking important steps to reform and reauthorize the department—the first such reauthorization since DHS was created in 2003.
Since that time, the DHS has been criticized for not effectively managing its various missions as a consequence of internal divisions, inefficiencies, and myriad poor policies.
The reauthorization bill tackles some of those problems. The House measure would improve the organizational structure within the department and clarify the responsibilities of DHS leadership.
It would eliminate overlap and duplication in various programs by merging or getting rid of unnecessary ones, decreasing the number of direct reports to the secretary, and providing incentives to boost employee morale. Surveys have found morale at the DHS to be the lowest among all of the federal government’s biggest agencies.
The Senate should take further steps to improve the DHS. As part of reauthorizing the department, senators should privatize airport-security screening, improve DHS’s research and development, and reform the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The Senate should look to the airport-security models used in Canada and Europe and privatize the Transportation Security Administration’s screening workforce to increase efficiency and lower costs, while still maintaining security.
DHS’s research-and-development program should be reformed to better equip DHS personnel with the tools they need, especially in the field of cybersecurity, where the threat is constantly changing.
Additionally, the R&D should focus more on timely research that can yield usable technology. The DHS should continue to expand collaboration with the private sector through the SAFETY Act, which will allow for more innovative solutions to the threats facing the nation.
Following the recent catastrophic natural disasters, now more than ever it’s time to reform FEMA. FEMA needs to be reformed so that the disaster-relief fund actually has more money put aside for large disasters.
The program spends too much money on smaller calamities that can and should be handled at the state level, leaving little money for when large amounts of aid are needed after large disasters.
Leaving money for big disasters would decrease the need for supplemental spending bills and all the accompanying congressional pork they entail.
These reforms would improve the efficiency of the DHS and make the department better prepared to handle threats and natural disasters.
With the House having done its part, and with Duke and many other leaders calling for changes, it is now up to the Senate to reform and reauthorize the Department of Homeland Security.