CATO Homeland Security Policy Forum

On 31 July 2002, Dave McIntyre joined representatives from other Washington DC think tanks in speaking at a public policy forum sponsored by the CATO Institute to address the question: “Will a New Federal Bureaucracy Make Us More Secure?”

Dr. McIntyre presented the strategic context for the discussion. He pointed out that Administration priorities have been consistent over the past 11 months. From its earliest days, the Office of Homeland Security addressed first responder preparedness, preparations for biological warfare, borders, and improved information and intelligence flow. Additionally, they focused on Critical Infrastructure Protection, while others at the National Security Council focused on cyber security. These six priorities were reflected in the budgets proposed to Congress in the winter, and line up very directly with the organization and responsibilities of the proposed Department of Homeland Security.

Dr. McIntyre also pointed out key themes from the new national strategy echoed in the proposed department: federalism, accountability, and fiscal responsibility. Finally he highlighted several areas for future action: a formal budget process, a cell for operational planning and control, personnel issues, and progressive professional education. While acknowledging the problems and issues remaining to be resolved, McIntyre encouraged Congress to take action now, and worry about amending the organization at a future date (as happened in the formation of the Department of Defense in 1947). The key to this entire issue, he suggested, is the following question: “Is the United States facing a threat to its survival or not?” If you think not, then there is plenty of time to make corrections. But if you think the threat is real, then action should be taken as soon as possible. McIntyre’s remarks were drawn from his analyses of the new strategy and the proposed department, located at http://www.homelandsecurity.org

Dr. Michele Flournoy from the Center for Strategic and International Studies was also generally supportive of the concept of a new department, but used her remarks to identify several areas for action even beyond that announced thus far. These include:

  • Additional staffing for threat assessment, strategic planning, budget process,
    and advanced concepts.
  • A National Intelligence Fusion Center.
  • Consideration of economic issues as well as security issues.
  • Improved coordination with other departments
  • Creation of a 21st century business culture.
  • A training academy
  • A public education program.
  • Establishment of a new (or revised) Federally Funded Research and Development Center.
  • Reorganization of congressional oversight.

Dr. Mac Destler from the University of Maryland asked that the audience divide the homeland security issue into two questions: What should the US do? Which functions should be in the new department? He voiced reluctance to see all national access functions consolidated, noting that the question of borders is “not just what we keep out but what we let in.” He also saw a proposed consolidation of some agencies as potentially useful, but was not enthusiastic about a central national point of contact for all homeland security issues. His preference was to keep the Office of Homeland Security, making it subject to congressional oversight, and using it for many coordination functions. Concerning congress, he recommended that each of the 13 authorization subcommittees (in the House and Senate) establish their own homeland security subcommittees in order to ensure congressional oversight. In short, he questions the plan as too much, too big, and moving too fast.

Dr. Ivan Eland was the most severe critic of the proposed department, arguing that focus should be on reducing and streamlining bureaucracy and government, not creating a new department that would likely grow and be even more unwieldy. The origin of the department, he felt, really was more a matter of countering revelations about the FBI and CIA than fixing HLS. The resulting reorganization was too big and done too quickly to fix the real problems we face in homeland security. Consequently, his strong recommendation was that we slow down, do not rush the department into being, and focus on coordination between agencies instead of agency reorganization. In addition, he held that real homeland security comes from reducing the threat from overseas, so a high priority should be toning down our intervention and engagement abroad.