Scholars to Chertoff: Bolster DHS policy office

Eight homeland security scholars sent a letter to Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff calling for a strengthened policy office with sweeping powers to unify program control.

The scholars warned that, "The organizational structure of the department has consistently worked against its performance. Perhaps the most glaring problem, evident from the first days of DHS, was the lack of a centralized policy organization to break down the stovepipes that DHS inherited from its 22 legacy agencies."

The letter was signed by
  • James Jay Carafano, senior fellow for national security and homeland security of the Heritage Foundation

  • Frank J. Cilluffo, associate vice president for homeland security and director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University

  • Johah J. Czerwinski, senior research associate and director of homeland security projects at the Center for the Study of the Presidency

  • David F. Heyman, director and senior fellow, Homeland Security Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies

  • Richard A. Falkenrath, senior fellow, foreign policy studies, Brookings Institution

  • Janice Kephart, former counsel, 9/11 Commission

  • Bert B. Tussing, director, homeland defense and security issues, Army War College Center for Strategic Leadership

  • C. Stewart Verdery Jr., adjunct fellow, Homeland Security Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The letter, dated Jan. 24, cited several outside studies of DHS that recommended establishing a strong policy group. They noted that both Chertoff and the first homeland security secretary, Tom Ridge, had called for a central policy office.

Ridge's plans were put on hold when Chertoff took office and mandated a top-to-bottom policy analysis called the second stage review. In accord with Chertoff's recommendations following the review, the administration created the job of assistant secretary for policy, a post now held by attorney, intelligence community executive and technology adviser Stewart A. Baker.

Baker's Office of Policy, Planning and International Affairs works with resources drawn from the policy shops of the department's predecessor agencies. According to the letter, "The amount provided is wholly insufficient for the work that the office has, and should be, assigned."

The scholars said that "this underfunding must be corrected at the earliest possible minute." They added that outside stakeholders?including other federal agencies, Congress, foreign governments, private companies and nonprofit organizations?all have sought a single place to work with the department and receive clear guidance about DHS' plans and views.

The letter specified eight broad areas of responsibility for a beefed-up policy office, ranging from budget planning to oversight of key border programs as well as coordination with foreign governments, Congress, the private sector and other federal agencies.

The letter called on Chertoff to expand Baker's policy office by at least 25 staff members and to fill all existing personnel slots quickly by reprogramming funds if possible. They also urged Chertoff to seek funding for the policy office, including its contractors and travel, in the fiscal 2007 budget.

Wilson P. Dizard III is a staff writer for Washington Technology's sister publication, Government Computer News.

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