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Department of Homeland Security – Current Retrospective: How’s It Working?

By Carl Soller
Soller Law Intl LLC

 

We have all taken a substantial interest in the activities of our current administration’s progress in securing our borders. We have come to realize (some of us) that bureaucracy may hinder rather than enhance protections of the American public. Most recently, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has come under fire as being inefficient and unable to deliver its promises. Certain government officials both elected and appointed have called for the disbanding of ICE. Unfortunately, the apparent failure of our Government to properly develop the goals for Homeland Security has been consistent beginning with the creation of the Office of Homeland Security (OHS) which came into existence Oct. 8, 2001. Shortly thereafter, those of us familiar with the workings of our Government and who criticized the reorganization of various Government Agencies into what is now the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) anticipated the apparent lack of organization and efficiency of this Government Department.    

In its publication of July 2002, the Office of Homeland Security developed and published the National Strategy for Homeland Security. One of the challenges noted in that publication is “to develop complementary systems that avoid duplication and ensure essential requirements…we must increase collaboration and coordination – in law enforcement and prevention, emergency response and recovery, policy development and implementation – so that public and private resources are better aligned to secure the homeland.” Unfortunately, the cooperation envisioned by the current DHS does little to ensure that “complementary systems avoid duplication” as was the intent. Seemingly, DHS has evolved as an agency that merely enlarges the preexisting bureaucracy without correcting the clearly inefficient operation of those law enforcement bodies which duplicate each other’s efforts on a regular basis. Many of the deficiencies of DHS operations have been identified in both public and private analyses over the years since its conception by President George W. Bush in September 2001. These include the following:

  • The national strategy for Homeland Security is vague and lacks a clear and concise plan for implementation as it has failed to define specific missions for the agencies absorbed
  • Clarification of the roles and responsibilities within and among the different levels of government as well as the private sector needs to take place
  • The failure to completely organize DHS has indeed led to the “duplication of efforts, misallocation of resources, and a sloppy accounting of expenditures due to improper monitoring of their allocation”

All of the above makes it quite clear that without the proper interaction it is inescapable that although the DHS is a critical part of homeland defense it cannot alone protect America. It has been stated as essential that all law enforcement agencies should share data and ensure that there be a central location for the collection of data related to bioterrorism, which should include other agencies that have significant counter-terrorism responsibilities: the CIA’s Counter-Terrorist Center, FBI’s Counter-Terrorism Division, and FBI’s Central Intelligence Division should all be completely integrated into the Infrastructure Protection Division within the Department of Homeland Security. Cooperation must occur within all levels of Government both horizontally and vertically. We must not replicate the previously existing “stovepiped system” as it would merely defeat a main purpose of the DHS. We should ask whether the following major initiatives have been properly implemented or in the future will be so implemented:

  • Create smart borders;
  • Combat fraudulent travel documents;
  • Increase the security of international shipping containers;
  • Intensify international law enforcement cooperation;
  • Help foreign nations fight terrorism;
  • Expand protection of transnational critical infrastructure;
  • Amplify international cooperation on homeland security, science, and technology;
  • Improve cooperation in response to attacks and
  • Review obligations to international treaties and law

CONCLUSION

The establishment of one encompassing agency (DHS) should result in improved information-sharing and accountability among the various players. Prior to the DHS initiative, more than 40 agencies were responsible for border security. This plethora of agencies with identical responsibilities increases both the lack of communication and the reality of redundancies, wasting time and money and decreasing the chances of detecting terrorist activities. It is critical that DHS continues to develop and implement a system designed to address these concerns. 

Carl R. Soller, Customs, International Cargo and Regulatory Compliance Attorney is counsel to companies engaged in all elements of the import/export supply chain and a recognized expert in his practice areas.  He and his firm concentrate their International, Regulatory and Cargo Practice in all business and regulatory matters on a nationwide basis.  He offers advice on supply chain security and its related Government Regulations to the Cargo Community as well as advice and a vast range of assistance to importers and exporters of all kinds of consumer goods.  He can be reached at (516) 812-6650 or (212) 643-6650 or

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