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Slate on DHS mismanagement

Slate's Fred Kaplan writes about ongoing management issues at the Homeland Security Department. (As an aside, DHS and the Federal Emergency Management Agency are taking heat again -- this time in Florida... so much so that Bush -- the gov, not the prez -- stepped in and said that he was in charge. Of course, DHS did extend its contract with former FEMA administrator Michael Brown for another month. Brown is helping FEMA assess what happened in Katrina. And I'm trying to keep my more cynical side in check!)

Anyway, on to the Slate piece... Kaplan argues that one of the problems with DHS is that it is led by lawyers, not managers.

First, Fire All the Lawyers [Slate.com, 10.26.2005]
It's time to put a manager in charge of the Department of Homeland Security.

Among his key points:

A large part of the department's problem is Chertoff himself—not the man personally, but his professional background, the way he's been accustomed to dealing with problems, and his tendency to surround himself with like-minded friends.

Who should lead DHS?
Last January, after Bernard Kerik—Bush's initial and utterly mind-blowing pick for homeland security secretary—self-destructed in blazes, I wrote a column asking Slate readers to pick a proper successor. Their favorite, by an overwhelming plurality: Jack Welch, the retired CEO of General Electric.

It was an inspired choice. Welch had transformed a quaint $12 billion company into a $300 billion global growth machine. In his 20 years of running GE, it acquired more than 600 companies with a workforce of 276,000, and he molded nearly all of them into sector leaders. His management style was disciplined but also decentralized, nonhierarchical, and results-oriented. His key concept was the "boundary-less" sharing of ideas across all divisions of the empire. Isn't this just what DHS needed—a manager who sets firm standards, lets his experts do their job, coordinates their resources, integrates their functions, and eliminates redundancies and deadwood?

We have been critical of DHS's management, and specifically the leaderships failure to make IT a priority.

When DHS was created in the months following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., many experts warned that pulling these organizations together was going to be a monumental task and that it would take years. They were right.

One other FEMA note: Hill Democrats are calling for FEMA to be pulled out of DHS and be re-raised to a Cabinet level agency.

Posted by Christopher Dorobek on Oct 27, 2005 at 12:15 PM


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