Present and Future Challenges Facing the Department of Homeland Security

Richard A. Falkenrath
Richard A. Falkenrath Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy Studies, The Brookings Institution

January 26, 2005


Good morning, Madam Chairman, Senator Lieberman, and Members of the Committee. I am grateful for the opportunity to be here today to provide my views on the present and future challenges facing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). I would also like to express my gratitude to the Members of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. You have played a central role in developing two vital pieces of post-9/11 legislation: the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. These are historic accomplishments.

Assessment of DHS Management

My direct experience with the DHS management extends only to mid-May 2004, when I resigned my position as Deputy Homeland Security Advisor to the President. Nonetheless, I will offer a few general comments on this subject.

Managing the start-up of the Department of Homeland Security is surely one of greatest managerial challenges any Cabinet officer has ever had to face. The scale and complexity of the task can hardly be underestimated; the time frame for action was tight and unforgiving; the daily operational and policy demands were relentless; the interagency environment could be treacherous; the external constituencies, perpetually discontented. With circumstances such as these as backdrop, no Cabinet officer will ever succeed at all tasks, all the time. The real question, however, is not whether there are some tasks that a Cabinet officer and his lieutenants have not performed adequately – of course there are and always will be. The real question is whether a Cabinet officer has accomplished the highest priorities objectives assigned to him or her by the President or the Congress. Measured by this yardstick, I believe that the Secretary Ridge and his subordinates have exceeded all reasonable expectations of their performance and are more deserving of commendation than complaint.