Less Can Be More For DHS

Conn Carroll /

Today the Washington Post looks at the Department of Homeland Security’s failure to develop or deploy a virtual fence on the Mexico border and reports: “Former officials, private-sector partners and independent analysts say the evolving 208,000-worker, $38 billion agency remains hindered by a crisis-of-the-moment environment, in which the rush to fulfill each new mandate or meet every threat undermines its ability to hold a strategic course and deliver promised results.” We think we’ve hear that sentiment before.

In June 2007, when Congress was planning to massively expand DHS responsibilities as part of an immigration amnesty proposal, Heritage analyst James Carafano wrote:

Many of the shortfalls in homeland security since 9/11 can be directly traced to Congress piling more missions and responsibilities on the Department of Homeland Security than it could practically accomplish. The Senate’s proposal to give amnesty to millions of immigrants unlawfully present in the United States would further overwhelm DHS’s capacity to manage immigration services, enforce the law, and ramp up security at the border. Giving more missions to DHS now is a strategy for failure. Instead, Congress should let DHS focus on its current missions and mandates, using its existing authority to secure the border, enforce the law, and provide a powerful deterrent to future illegal migration.

The Department of Homeland Security is just five years old this month. It still has not yet mastered basic functions like immigration services (there is a backlog of an estimated 1,275,795 applications from would-be legal immigrants) or tracking foreign visitors (currently foreign travelers are tracked with the I-94 form, which simply asks them when they expect to leave – an electronic system has been mandated since before 9/11). Before Congress adds any new mandates, the DHS should really prove they can handle he ones they have already.