With the OMB release of the President’s Fiscal Year 2010 budget today, there are many changes in the winds (increases and decreases) for federal agencies and managers to implement. Changes are also in this budget for the Department of Homeland Security. A big change is the decision to move the Federal Protective Service (FPS) out of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and place it in the National Protection and Program Directorate (NPPD).
Giving credit when credit is due, I have to start by applauding Secretary Napolitano with addressing and making decisions on issues large and small. When making decisions you can never please everyone, but one thing I love to see is that she is willing to make decisions in short order on things of national order and those that have been around for some time. One such decision is the movement of FPS out of ICE.
Clearly since the very beginning there has been no question on the move of FPS from the General Services Administration to the new Department of Homeland Security in a post 9/11 environment. FPS is tasked with protecting part of our nation’s critical infrastructure — the federal government itself.
However, the issue of where to place FPS has been evaluated a number of times over the years within DHS. Initially it was placed in what was the Border and Transportation Security Directorate; ultimately, however, it was decided that FPS, a law enforcement agency, should be placed within ICE, which houses a great deal of the federal law enforcement infrastructure within the borders of the United States.
After DHS was officially stood up, the question of whether that placement was the best choice for FPS, came up several times over the years. However, as ICE and DHS were faced with a number of massive issues during the initial start-up, an analogy of building an airplane while it is in flight comes to mind. With lots of pressing issues having immediate impact, the question of FPS placement remained on the “to-do list” for some time and was never ultimately settled.
Clearly Secretary Napolitano has set FPS’s organizational placement high on her new to-do list. I am sure she has reviewed all the staff work that was done on the perfect placement for FPS. I am sure that some could argue many different ways on the placement of FPS to best serve DHS and the nation. As to whether there is any truly right or wrong place for FPS, no one could ever say with 100% assurance. But it is refreshing to see that even the small to-do items are being addressed — and quickly — by the Secretary. Although a law enforcement agency, the primary mission of FPS is a protective one (hence the name), and NPPD is the right place for it to ultimately reside.
If the Secretary has not seen it already, the men and women of FPS are passionate about their mission and they will do everything possible from the very bottom of their hearts to protect this nation’s government, ensure its operation and do whatever it takes to fulfill their mission regardless of where they are and who they report to. The question is not whether they should be in ICE or NPPD; the more appropriate question is whether they can do their jobs a little better from somewhere else. Again, it is nice to see that the Secretary has forced the time into her hectic schedule to address this important question. It also encouraging to see that she has the fortitude to try new things despite the turf battles that assuredly would be taking place and when there are no doubt many who would suggest such a reorganization is risky.
I’m not saying that prior decisions were bad; they were just different, and it is refreshing to see that someone beside me hates the expressions “this is the way we have always done it” and “you cannot change things in the government.” The bottom line for the folks of FPS is that they report to the taxpayer and they report to each and every American, and FPS will do its part to protect this Country regardless of the organization chart.
In closing, I will say that one of the little rallying slogans of FPS continues to be “always flexible” and they will serve this Secretary, Department, and Country to their last breath. I have always been impressed with them. They are always behind the scenes, get little credit, and get some blame because they are a fee-for-service agency, but they have massive hearts and desire to fulfill their mission. It has always been my pleasure to have known them, and next to having my kids, having had the biggest honor of my life to have served this nation with them.
So to Secretary Napolitano: Thanks for directly addressing this age-old (or at least DHS-old) question of placement. I wish you and FPS all the best in making this work. I am sure the men and women of ICE will miss their brothers and sisters in blue, but as dedicated civil servants themselves they understand your decision and will do whatever is needed to make this work.