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DHS disorganization

The Homeland Security Department has been on an offensive saying that they have learned lessons from the Hurricane Katrina response.

Here is how Slate.com's Today's Papers recaps the stories in the dailies:

[The] Washington Post lead with the administration launching a Katrina "lessons learned" offensive in the face of congressional hammering. Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff, who has faced a particularly strong beating, defended the government's response but promised to clean up FEMA and clear up lines of responsibility. The Journal says five candidates have been offered FEMA's directorship with each declining it "amid concerns the agency as currently organized isn't equipped to do its job."

Part of the defense is that DHS is hyper-terrorism focused, while putting natural disasters on the back burner. Here is Chertoff's quote:

In the last couple of days, I've read in some quarters that people are taking the position that DHS sees itself as a terrorism-focused agency, or that there's some huge difference between what we do when we deal with disasters that are trigged by evil acts of men and disasters that are triggered by acts of nature. I want to tell, you I unequivocally and strongly reject this attempt to drive a wedge between our concerns about terrorism and our concerns about natural disasters. That kind of wedge makes no sense, and it does a disservice to all of you here who are working very hard to protect against any kind of disaster of whatever cause.

Unfortunately, what I hear is that DHS is just poorly organized and poorly managed... and I have repeatedly pointed to the agency's organizational chart. [.pdf] There are scores of people reporting directly to the secretary, which does not seem to make sense. And then the CIO is still totally absent. And it took major congressional arm twisting to get the CFO listed.

Everybody knew that pulling together 23 different organizations into a single agency was going to be difficult, to say the least. I would welcome people's suggestions on potential steps to fix the agency. I remain skeptical about the fixes as proposed so far.

Posted by Christopher Dorobek on Feb 14, 2006 at 12:15 PM


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