Rethinking Homeland Security; Consider a New Board Similar to the Fed and SEC

Article excerpt

Byline: Harlan Ullman, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The nation's security is in and in need of a fix. The fundamental issue rests in the appropriate assignment of responsibility, authority and accountability among our security agencies.

For example, the Department of Defense, whose military personnel are acquitting themselves with courage, perseverance and distinction in Iraq and Afghanistan, has been accused of a "turf" grab, overreaching its authority by delving too deeply into activities normally the preserve of the intelligence, law enforcement and homeland security agencies. Whether that is a fair charge or not, the intersections between defense, intelligence, law enforcement and homeland security in this post-September 11 world remain ill-defined and must be clarified.

Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte faces this challenge in integrating the intelligence community into a more effective and cohesive operation. Reinvigorating the CIA is part of this problem. Another part is fixing intelligence assessment and analytical responsibilities.And then there is the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

England's great man of letters, Dr. Samuel Johnson, once observed about a dog walking on its hind legs was "not that the dog walked badly but that it could walk at all." Merging an eclectic menage of dozens of disparate agencies and differing bureaucratic cultures totaling nearly 180,000 people is a tough job, and perhaps it is amazing the department functions at all.

But that is not good enough. With a new hurricane season literally around the corner, there are no guarantees that the department is better prepared for the next crisis than it was for Katrina.

Before producing fixes, understanding the causes of the problems that must be corrected is the first step. The overarching problem DHS faces is not of its own making.The root of the problem stems from the Constitution and the principles of federalism and checks and balances.

Today, multiple, overlapping federal, state and local jurisdictions preclude establishing clear lines of authority and accountability that actually put people in charge. Without those, assignment of responsibility is meaningless. Bluntly put, no single person or organization is (or can be) in charge of homeland security.

The national capital region vividly shows what happens. The region includes portions of Maryland and Northern Virginia that abut Washington, D.C. One would think that disaster planning here should be the national gold standard. It is not.A recent Government Accountability Office report concluded why: "no one is in charge."

An obvious further reason for this absence of authority is sovereignty. …