How politicians can keep us safe

Published 1:42 pm Tuesday, November 21, 2006

By By Tray Smith
Since the 9/11 atrocities, the President and Congress have instituted a series of reforms intended to transform our national security establishment. First, a new cabinet-level government agency was created to coordinate our nations counter terrorism, disaster response, and homeland security efforts (the Department of Homeland Security.) Second, a Director of National Intelligence was hired at the recommendation of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission in order to help coordinate the efforts of the government's sixteen various intelligence gathering agencies. The Departments of State, Defense, Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have also made changes in order to reflect the new threats before us. But unfortunately, this bureaucratic game of musical chairs our politicians have been playing has transformed our national security agencies into something worse than we had to begin with. Our safety since 9/11 can be attributed more to our military offense in the Middle East, increased vigilance among the public, the Patriot Act, and an increased counterterrorism effort by the FBI than to the shuffling of organization charts.
Of all of the post-9/11 reforms, the Department of Homeland Security has been the most disastrous. It is this agency that has responsibility over our yet to be secured borders. It is this agency that was responsible for the government's response to Hurricane Katrina. And it is this agency that distributes Homeland Security funding not based on the threat state's actually face from terrorist, but on the influence of state's Congressional delegations in Washington, D.C. Case in point: Wyoming receives more funding per capita in Homeland Security grants than New York. The problems at DHS are compounded by their incompetent leader who President Bush refuses to fire.
It is too early to judge the success of the Director of National Intelligence. But it is hard to imagine how such a person could have success while having to contend with cabinet secretaries who outrank him. And with the exception of the FBI and Department of Defense, transformation efforts in the rest of our government have had no significant impact on improving our security.
The problem with transformation efforts to date is that they have been focused on reforming individual sectors of government rather than establishing overreaching government wide reforms. For instance, the FBI and the Department of Defense have each done incredible jobs at self transformation. But instead of asking how do we reform the FBI to fight terrorist, or how do we reform the Department of Defense to fight terrorist, we should ask how do we reform our whole government to fight terrorist. To the extent we have done that, our politicians have enacted policy based on the assumption that the way to fix ineffective bureaucracies is to create bigger and more complex bureaucracies to govern over the old ones. Instead, policy makers should think more along the lines of bureaucratic consolidation that led to the unification of our four military branches under one department after World War II and to the creation of "jointness" amongst our uniformed services after the Goldwater-Nichols Act was enacted in the 1980's.
In order to achieve our goal of real security, the FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Border Patrol, the Transportation Security Administration, the DEA, the Secret Service, and all other domestic security organizations should be consolidated into one U.S. National Police Force (NPF). The Coast Guard would become the National Marine Police Force and work under the leadership of the NPF. The NPF would be a civilian branch of our military led by the current leaders of the FBI with an organizational structure similar to that of our other military branches, including the positions of secretary and chief of staff. The NPF would have a seat on the Joint Chief of Staff and NPF officials would be eligible to chair that council. The NPF would also operate under the regional combatant command system, though its international responsibilities will be minimal. The NPF would be responsible for fighting crime, intercepting terrorist plots, and reducing the drug flow. Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security would be dissolved and the Department of Justice would be responsible only for prosecuting and punishing, not apprehending, criminals. The DOJ and to NPF would be required to communicate regularly.
Similarly, our intelligence agencies should all be united together under one authority under the leadership of the Department of Defense. This goal is less ambitious, as most of our intelligence community currently works for the Defense Department. The CIA will resist the idea of joining the Defense Department, but seeing that the CIA is currently lead by a general and the Defense Department will soon be lead by a former CIA director that resistance could be overcome. To coordinate the intelligence division with the intelligence operations in each of the other military branches, a tactical command over intelligence should be created. That command would oversee the operation of the National Counterterrorism Center.
In order to reflect its new status as the lead national security organization, the Department of Defense would become the Department of Security.
In the new political climate in Washington, D.C., the President and Congressional Democrats could work together to eliminate the bureaucratic nightmare that is our national security establishment and create a seamless organization to fight modern national security threats. If there is any truth behind the Democrats continued rhetoric about "real security" and the President's supposed toughness on the war on terror, they will come together and buck the special interest to create a government that can truly keep us safe. That is the bottom line.
Tray Smith is a sophomore at ECHS and former intern in the Riley administration. He can be reached for comment at

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