When a team of experts led by scholars at The Heritage Foundation and the Center for Strategic and International Studies recommended some serious fixes to the organization of the Department of Homeland Security in their report DHS 2.0 advocated, among other key initiatives creating a policy section in the secretariat that would work for an Undersecretary for Policy and Planning. The need for a policy and planning arm in the department has been apparent for some time now. Most of the recommendations in the DHS 2.0 report were adopted, including setting-up a policy shop. The effort to have Congress authorize the undersecretary position has been thwarted on several occasions in the Senate for reasons that have nothing to do with the rationale for establishing the position. The House consistently included the proposal in a department authorization bill, but the Senate has never taken-up an authorization bill for Homeland Security—again mostly for reasons that have do with intramural politics inside the Congress.

It is time for all that to change. There is a new Congress in town and a new opportunity for fixing the problem.

Establishing a DHS undersecretary for policy and planning should remain a priority for the Administration and Congress. Without the authority of undersecretary status, the policy office–despite its achievements to date–lacks the stature of other major components of the department. This lack of status is particularly problematic when dealing with other components of the federal government and during participation in “deputies” meetings in the security councils at the White House.

Congress should act now.

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