Lawmakers suggest major restructuring for DHS
The Homeland Security Department may find budget savings for taxpayers if it consolidates its regional offices, according to a bipartisan group of congressional leaders requesting a report on that possibility.
For starters, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is the disaster preparedness and response unit of DHS, is organized with 10 regional offices. Consolidating border security agencies into similar regional offices is likely to create efficiencies, Rep. Candice Miller, (R-Mich) chair of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, said in a statement on Oct. 14.
Miller, along with three other lawmakers, wrote a letter to the Government Accountability Office requesting the regional consolidation study of DHS on Oct. 11.
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The letter also was signed by Sens. Joseph Lieberman, (I-Conn) and Susan Collins, (R-Maine), who are the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Rep. Henry Cuellar ( D-Texas) also signed the letter.
Miller suggested Selfridge Air National Guard Base in northeastern Michigan as the “logical headquarters” for a DHS prospective Midwestern regional office.
Selfridge already houses an operations center for DHS’ Customs and Border Protection’s Great Lakes Air and Marine Branch, which coordinates with other federal, state and local partners.
“My goal with this GAO report is to examine whether or not a similar organization will enable DHS to achieve cost savings and at the same time improve border security operations. I am a firm believer that it will, and I look forward to receiving this report,” Miller said.
DHS opened its doors in 2003 as a consolidation of 22 federal agencies. In 2004, then-secretary Tom Ridge issued a report revealing plans for specific consolidations along with an agenda of additional consolidations to be carried out in the future.
The issue of regional consolidations received renewed attention under Secretary Janet Napolitano in 2010. Her review recommended a regional realignment but suggested further examinations of mechanisms to accomplish that. However, “it is not apparent that any efforts have been made to date within the Department to implement this recommendation,” Miller, Lieberman and the others wrote.
The new report being requested of GAO would determine potential administrative and logistical cost savings, operational efficiencies, or other benefits, while also accounting for potential costs and detriments of the consolidation.
Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.