July 14, 2005 | WebMemo on Department of Homeland Security

Chertoff Takes Charge

On July 13, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Michael Chertoff announced the completion of his "Second Stage Review," a comprehensive assessment of the Department's missions, organization, and resources, and described a plan to restructure the Department based on the review. Chertoff's proposals to reform DHS are spot on and address virtually every issue and recommendation in "DHS 2.0 Rethinking the Department of Homeland Security," a joint report by The Heritage Foundation and the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Chertoff's proposals are important not because Heritage or CSIS agrees with them, but because they will help make the nation more secure, freer, and more prosperous. Congress should pass legislation supporting these reforms quickly.


The Secretary's recommendations will accomplish three important objectives:


  • First, reorganizing the secretariat will create undersecretaries that work to pull the parts of DHS together, rather than serve as an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy commanding small kingdoms within DHS. This reform will finally achieve the rationale for creating DHS-ensuring that all the major federal activities working on homeland security are integrated. The Secretary's proposal will make undersecretaries responsible for policy, preparedness, intelligence, and operations, activities that will ensure that all DHS's agencies work with a unified purpose.
  • Second, Chertoff proposes to create strong operational agencies with short chains of command to the Secretary, so that tasks are accomplished quickly and efficiently, with end purposes always in mind. This is the right thing to do. Personnel on the ground who are responsible for protecting Americans from future attacks should not be stifled by unnecessary bureaucracy. Removing undersecretaries from the chain of command and having agencies report directly to the Deputy Secretary will accomplish this. After the reorganization, DHS will have seven operational agencies.
  • Third, the Secretary purposes to allocate resources to the highest risks. DHS has limited means. By prioritizing its efforts, Chertoff will ensure that Americans get the biggest bang for their homeland security buck. Priorities include preventing terrorist attacks, preparing for catastrophic disasters, border security, immigration reform, interior enforcement, transit system security, effective information sharing, and maritime security.

Based on the Second Stage Review and its recommendations, Congress should give Secretary Chertoff full support in his effort to restructure DHS. Speed is of the essence; Congress should hold hearings immediately and pass necessary legislation as soon as possible.


James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow for National Security and Homeland Security in the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, and Paul Rosenzweig is Senior Legal Research Fellow in the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, at The Heritage Foundation. Christopher L. Molitoris and Diem Nguyen assisted in preparing this Webmemo.

About the Author

James Jay Carafano, Ph.D. Vice President for the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, and the E. W. Richardson Fellow

Paul Rosenzweig
Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies