Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs

Organizing for Homeland Security

Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee, we very much appreciate the opportunity to testify before you on how to organize the U.S. government for homeland security. We are grateful for the work you, Mr. Chairman, the committee members, and the committee staff have put into this effort.

Much of this effort is reflected in Senator Lieberman's draft bill, which is the subject of today's hearing. That bill contains many worthwhile ideas. At the same time, we believe it may both be too ambitious in some areas and not sufficiently ambitious in others. In particular, we do not believe a Department of Homeland Security is the most effective way to organize for this effort. It is better to build upon the coordinating mechanisms put in place by the Bush administration. At the same time, we strongly believe that these arrangements ought be made statutory, that the Office of Homeland Security (OHS) and its Director should have greater budget authority, and that there is scope for agency consolidation in certain functional areas, notably border security.

Consolidation or Coordination?

There are two basic approaches to organizing the federal government for homeland security. One is to rely on a lead agency—either an existing agency (like the Justice Department) or a new one (like the Department of Homeland Security proposed by Senator Lieberman and others). The other approach, currently being pursued by the Bush administration, focuses on interagency (and intergovernmental) coordination, with a single White House-based entity tasked with bringing together the myriad of agencies responsible for different aspects of homeland security.