Congress voted this past week to authorize nearly
$40 billion for the Department of Homeland Security, but the result will likely
continue to be more bureaucracy and less security for Americans.
Five years into this new department, Congress still cannot agree on how to
handle the mega-bureaucracy it created, which means there has been no effective
oversight of the department. While Congress remains in disarray over how to
fund and oversee the department, we can only wonder whether we are more vulnerable
than we were before Homeland Security was created.
I was opposed to the creation of a new Homeland Security department from the
beginning. Only in Washington would anyone call the creation of an additional
layer of bureaucracy on top of already bloated bureaucracies "streamlining."
Only in Washington would anyone believe that a bigger, more centralized federal
government means more efficiency.
When Congress voted to create the Homeland Security department, I strongly
urged that – at the least – FEMA and the Coast Guard should remain
independent entities outside the department. Our Coast Guard has an important
mission – to protect us from external threats – and in my view it
is dangerous to experiment with rearranging the deck chairs when the United
States is vulnerable to attack. As I said at the time, "the Coast Guard
and its mission are very important to the Texas Gulf coast, and I don't want
that mission relegated to the back burner in a huge bureaucracy."
Likewise with FEMA. At the time of the creation of the Department of Homeland
Security, I wrote "we risk seeing FEMA become less responsive as part of
DHS. FEMA needs to be a flexible, locally focused, hands-on agency that helps
people quickly after a disaster." Unfortunately and tragically, we all
know very well what happened in 2005 with Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. We know
that FEMA's handing of the disaster did in many cases more harm than good.
FEMA was so disorganized and incompetent in its management of the 2005 hurricanes
that one can only wonder how much the internal disarray in the Department of
Homeland Security may have contributed to that mismanagement.
Folding responsibility for defending our borders into the Department of Homeland
Security was also a bad idea, as we have come to see. The test is simple: We
just ask ourselves whether our immigration enforcement has gotten better or
worse since functions were transferred into this super bureaucracy. Are our
borders being more effectively defended against those who would enter our country
illegally? I don't think so.
Are we better off with an enormous conglomerate of government agencies that
purports to keep us safe? Certainly we are spending more money and getting less
for it with the Department of Homeland Security. Perhaps now that the rush to
expand government in response to the attacks of 9/11 is over, we can take a
good look at what is working, what is making us safer, and what is not. If so,
we will likely conclude that the Department of Homeland Security is too costly,
too bloated, and too bureaucratic. Hopefully, then we will refocus our efforts
on an approach that doesn't see more federal bureaucracy in Washington as the
best way to secure the rest of the nation.