Sunday, December 21, 2008

Bureaucracy at DHS

The New Republic has an article by Jeffrey Rosen on DHS:

"Chertoff hasn't settled into an office partly because the six-year-old Department of Homeland Security (DHS) still has no permanent, consolidated headquarters. Instead, the unwieldy amalgam of 22 separate federal agencies operates out of 70 buildings at 40 different locations in the Washington area. And the lack of a real home is just the beginning of the department's bureaucratic problems. The most recent survey by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management on the job satisfaction of federal employees in 36 agencies ranked Homeland Security last or near last in every category. Meanwhile, officials from the Pentagon who have tried to do business with DHS complained to me of organizational chaos at the department. Homeland Security employees, they said, are often unaware of overlapping initiatives championed by their colleagues, and even by Chertoff himself."
Rosen's article is anti-DHS, but I think that's short-sighted. DHS has been established for years now, so it's not going to be easy to undo it (which might have been possible within 12-15 months after the event). And the quoted bit points to one of the problems of any reorganization: you have to worry about logistics. Where is the headquarters, who sits where, how does the paper flow, who handles budget allotments, who does payroll, etc. It takes years to get things running pretty smoothly. (Sometimes it never does--I saw one passing reference to General Motors during recent discussion of the bailout which suggested the reorganization which incorporated Buick into GM (back in the teens or 20's?) never did meld it into GM.

All of the above is not saying I agreed with how they reorganized, but that Secretary Napolitano and Obama should be careful in what they do. (And Obama should press the Dems in Congress to redo the committees overseeing DHS.)

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