February 13, 2012 | Issue Brief on Homeland Security
FYI: Heritage WebMemos are now called Issue Briefs.
The President’s fiscal year (FY) 2013 budget proposal, released earlier today, makes important changes in the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) capacity to lead a national homeland security enterprise.
Contained within the budget proposal was a call to remove the Office for State and Local Law Enforcement, the Office of International Affairs, and the Private Sector Office out of the Office of Policy and into the Office of the Secretary and Executive Management, making them direct reports to the Secretary of Homeland Security. As Members of Congress begin their deliberations on President Obama’s FY 2013 budget request this week, they should carefully examine these changes.
DHS Office of Policy
The Office of Policy was created in 2005 to improve policy development, coordination, and oversight throughout the department. Among other activities, the office has:
In addition to being a critical player in policy development and interagency activities, the Office of Policy is home to several key programs, including the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). VWP member countries are required to institute certain security protocols and sign information-sharing agreements. These partnerships make the VWP a valuable part of the nation’s counterterrorism structure.
The Office of Policy also handles important activities related to screening foreign acquisitions of U.S. companies and assets for national security concerns and provides a representative to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.
A Flawed Reorganization
Previously contained in the Office of Policy, the Office for State and Local Law Enforcement works to develop national policy in relation to the role of state, local, and tribal law enforcement in combating the threat of terrorism and responding to natural disasters. Similarly, the Office of International Affairs plays a crucial role in working with foreign nations to improve international cooperation and information sharing on key homeland security issues, such as border and aviation security. The Private Sector Office serves as the main point of contact between DHS and U.S. business and other non-governmental organizations. In the past, each of these offices has proved an essential component in contributing to the Office of Policy’s efforts to develop critical, forward-thinking policy objectives within the national homeland security enterprise.
Dissecting the Office of Policy makes little sense. Elevating the Office for State and Local Law Enforcement, the Office of International Affairs, and the Private Sector Office to direct reports would do little to enhance efforts to advance national homeland security policy, instead serving to create an increasing number of stovepipes within the homeland security enterprise. Worse yet, it would add layers of bureaucracy and create more costly administrative needs at a time when the federal government is supposed to be focused on enhanced efficiencies and decreased spending.
To be fair, while the Office of Policy would be losing these three components, it would gain the formerly separate Office of Counternarcotics Enforcement and Office of Risk Management and Analysis, once contained within the National Protection and Programs Directorate. Both of these offices represent key components of DHS strategic planning and policy formation and would be welcome additions within the Office of Policy. The benefits of this move, however, may well be overshadowed by the removal of the Office for State and Local Law Enforcement, the Office of International Affairs, and the Private Sector Office.
Reversing Executive Wrongs
As Congress begins its deliberations on President Obama’s FY 2013 budget request this week, it would be wise to look at more than just the raw numbers and examine the call for reorganization within DHS. The Office of Policy has made extensive strides in recent years to increase capacity and enhance department-wide policy development, planning, and programming. Today’s move on the part of the Administration, however, threatens to reverse much of this progress. Instead of undermining the efforts of the Office of Policy, Congress and the Administration should:
A Forward-Looking DHS
Shuffling components in and out of the Office of Policy would do little to enhance DHS’s strategic planning. Congress and the Administration should show a true commitment to fostering forward-looking policy planning within the department. Keeping the Office of Policy intact is one way to do that.
James Jay Carafano, Ph.D. , is Deputy Director of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies and Director of, and Jessica Zuckerman is a Research Assistant in, the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the Davis Institute, at The Heritage Foundation.