Most American do not feel as secure today as they did on 9/10/2001, nor do they feel as free. We have sacrificed freedoms, but we have not gained security. We have spend millions of dollars to fight a so-called War on Terror and have few tangible results to show for it. Much of the money has gone to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Why do we do not need a Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Most of its work is wasteful and duplicated by other government agencies. Most of DHS’s efforts appear to be oriented toward domestic law enforcement and not towards foreign terrorists. The activities being performed by DHS agents would not have prevented the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11/2001.
It appeared to be a good idea at the time President George Bush proposed forming it, because the public needed to be reassured that Government was doing something to protect us. Our national leaders assure us that Osama bin Laden is dead and Al–Qaeda is on the run. Today the DHS appears to be a bloated and mismanaged bureaucracy of marginally qualified civil servants. All of the various components should be broken up and sent back to the Government Agencies they came from.
The Coast Guard is and was the lead agency in DHS. Other agencies; such as, the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Defense, Interior, and Health and Human Services have contributed components. At last count there were an estimated 15 to 20 spy agencies in the DHS.
Moreover, as of May 21, 2014 according to a Washington Post article by Jerry Markon, the DHS is homeless. It does not have a Headquarters. The construction site in Southeast Washington, DC on the grounds of the old Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital is over-budgeted by billions of dollars and may not be completed before 2016, if ever. The site is completely undeveloped except for the Coast Guard Headquarters building. Congress found money to relocate the Coast Guard Headquarters.
As events have unfolded, it seems to me that the underfunding of the DHS Headquarters relocation project may not be entirely accidental. A great way to kill a project is to underfund it. That is just what Congress has done to DHS. Congress funded the Coast Guard Headquarters move from Buzzard Point to Saint Elizabeth’s, but had not appropriated sufficient funds to move DHS. That means the Coast Guard was considered essential but DHS was not.
The Coast Guard has been around since 1790, but DHS came into existence in 2002. The Coast Guard has a proven track record and enjoys favorable public support. Also, the Coast Guard has clearly defined and exclusive missions. Just to name a few, the Coast Guard is an international seagoing law enforcement agency and is tasked marine science and oceanographic studies all over the world; and, with search and rescue duties. All of America’s polar ice breakers are operated by the Coast Guard.
The DHS has shared responsibilities and overlapping jurisdiction with many other federal agencies. Its duties and responsibiities are not unique to the DHS. No one in the DHS appears to be ultimately responsible for any assignment. That makes it difficult to find accountability for success or failures in any operation. There is so much duplicity that it is impossible to tell where the buck stops in any office in the Department.
Homeland security is not the top priority item with most Americans anymore. The DHS has succeeded in curtailing many civil liberties that American are not happy about. Privacy rights have been eroded. Air line security is cumbersome and intrusive. Immigration enforcement has not managed to curd the flood of illegal immigrants coming into the country. Phone calls and Emails are being monitored at an alarming rate. We are practically in a police state. Since the establishment of the DHS and the Patriot Act, Americans have given up freedoms and civil liberties for security, but most American do not feel any more secure than they did before 9/11/2001.
When Homeland Security was the top national priority, most American would bear any burden and pay any price to accommodate the wishes of the bureaucrats in the DHS. Today, at the rate that Congress is approving funding to move DHS Headquarters to the new Saint Elizabeth site, some lawmakers are urging that plans for such an ambitious headquarters complex be scrapped.
“Sometimes you just have to drop back and punt,” said Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), whose oversight subcommittee has criticized federal management of the project. “At what point in time does the government just cut its losses and look for a better way of doing things?”
Former DHS secretary Michael Chertoff, who had called a consolidated headquarters essential for his department’s mission to protect the homeland, acknowledges that the project has become a victim of Washington’s budget wars.
Republicans are calling for a reevaluation of the project, suggesting for instance that private developers could build a more modest office complex and lease it to the government. The proposal to raise the kind of headquarters envisioned after Sept. 11 is now practically an orphan in Congress.
“It’s just not going to happen,” said a Republican congressional aide. “The money doesn’t exist.”
( Markon, J. and Crites, A.; Washington Post, May 21, 2014, p. A1)