Investigative Agencies Portrayed as Bitter Rivals

Article excerpt

"Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic," is an expression heard often in Washington in recent months, usually in reference to plans to reorganize the Department of Homeland Security.

Plans to remove the Federal Emergency Management Agency from DHS have received most of the public's attention, but a more contentious debate over the roles of two agencies, Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is ongoing.

A DHS inspector general report said overlapping responsibilities have created a rivalry between the two agencies, and cooperation and information sharing is lagging. One possible solution is a merger.

The House subcommittee on management, integration, and oversight on homeland security called a hearing to discuss the matter, but right out of the gate, Chairman Mike Rodgers, R-AIa., said he was against the idea. Not surprisingly, Julie Myers, assistant secretary for ICE and Acting CBP Commissioner Deborah Spero also testified that they opposed a merger.

However, officials representing the agencies' employees painted an even bleaker picture than the inspector general.

TJ. Bonner, president of the American Federation of Government Employees' National Border Patrol Council, said, "It should have been clear from the outset that tasking two bureaus to enforce the same laws, with jurisdiction divided along meaningless geographic lines, would lead to massive breakdowns in communication, coordination and cooperation."

Art Gordon, a Transportation security Administration agent who serves as president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, said a survey of 3,300 ICE officers, showed a disconnect between the agencies that resulted in "dual track investigations and duplication of effort, with little or no coordination. …