June 1, 2011 | WebMemo on Department of Homeland Security
As Congress moves through the fiscal year (FY) 2012 appropriations process, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Policy may receive a dramatic decrease in funding. While it is important that Congress seek out cost savings within DHS, the Office of Policy is a critical player in policy development and interagency activities. It is also home to key programs—such as the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)—that are essential for DHS’s success.
Congress should ensure that the office’s operations are adequately funded while cutting funding in areas that need less money, such as bureaucratic and inefficient homeland security grants.
DHS Office of Policy
The Office of Policy was created in 2005 to improve policy development, coordination, and oversight department-wide. Examples of activities performed by the office include:
The Office of Policy is also home to several key programs including the VWP, which extends visa-free status to travelers from member countries. This partnership requires that member countries institute certain security protocols and commit to information-sharing agreements. As a result of these partnerships, the VWP is a valuable part of the nation’s counterterrorism structure.
Also housed in the Office of Policy are important activities related to screening foreign acquisitions of U.S. companies and assets for national security concerns and housing a representative to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.
Over the past few years, the Office of Policy has also dramatically increased its capacity to act as a critical resource for DHS. This has included changes in both its hiring and budget processes.
FY 2012 Appropriations
The DHS Office of Policy has been a repeated victim of legislative cuts—a trend that threatens to continue into the FY 2012 appropriations cycle. This is a mistake. Certainly there may be room for Congress to spend smarter on homeland security, but hamstringing the valuable efforts of the Office of Policy will impede—if not completely halt—current efforts and important programs. Instead, Congress should:
The Office of Policy is an example of the right direction for DHS. The office is forward-thinking and tasked with important projects and programs that have and will continue to have a meaningful impact on the future of the DHS. Congress should not let politics stand in the way of securing the homeland.
Jena Baker McNeill is Senior Policy Analyst for Homeland Security in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation.