Department of Homeland
It is always difficult to write about bureaucracies because they are subject to frequent change. In the federal government, this is particularly true because administrations only have a mandate for four years, and the political appointees who head the various agencies and fill key policy positions usually stay only about two years before they burn out, or are lured by more lucrative jobs in the private sector. It is amazing that so many people are eager to fill the Schedule C political appointments, which typically pay the same salary as senior military officers receive, and require back-breaking six- or seven-day work weeks, 12 to 15 hours a day. Yet, there are enough of these folks waiting in the wings in any administration that the assignments rarely go begging. In that regard, the new Department of Homeland Security seems to be having some trouble.
The DHS had only been officially in business for six months when the press began an assessment of its performance as part of a look back at the events of 9/11. The DHS did not receive very good grades in these assessments, even though Secretary Tom Ridge was trying to manage an overhaul of government that was even more complicated than the last major departmental creation, that of the Department of Defense in 1947. One could make the argument that the first Secretary of Defense, James Forrestal, had a much easier task in an atmosphere of peace in the postwar world. Secretary Ridge is trying to make the DHS work in the midst of a war on terrorism that some say might last as long as the cold war—about fifty years.