Congressman offers own plan for DHS reorganization

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) has his own ideas about how to improve the operations of the Homeland Security Department, and he introduced legislation last week to do just that.

Thompson, ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, introduced the Department of Homeland Security Reform Act of 2005 on Oct. 6.

Some elements of Thompson's bill mirror proposals offered by DHS secretary Michael Chertoff, such as calling on the department to conduct a Quadrennial Homeland Security Review similar to that undertaken by the Defense Department every four years.

The Thompson bill also echoes Chertoff's recommendation to eliminate the Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate, but calls for the creation of an Office of Intelligence and Analysis headed by a chief intelligence officer who reports directly to the secretary.

In response to more immediate concerns, the legislation would create a stronger Directorate of Preparedness and Response, including a reinvigorated Federal Emergency Management Agency. This is in direct contrast to Chertoff's plan to eliminate the existing Emergency Preparedness and Response Directorate and farm out its responsibilities to other elements within DHS.

Two new assistant secretaries?one for physical infrastructure security, the other for cybersecurity and telecommunications, both located within the suggested Preparedness and Response Directorate?would have higher visibility and broader authority for their respective infrastructure arenas.

The legislation also would merge the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and the Customs and Border Protection divisions, in keeping with congressional sentiments that the split between the two has created inefficiencies and a lack of coordination.

Patience Wait is a staff writer for Washington Technology's sister publication, Government Computer News.

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