By Douglas Doan
My previous columns discussed four of the seven deadly sins (greed pride, gluttony, and sloth). Today’s Sunday school lesson focuses on the sin of Envy and the role it plays in DHS dis-functionality. Those who commit the sin of envy resent that others have something they perceive themselves as lacking. So, let’s take a deeper dive and see how the sin of Envy has hurt DHS.
Destructive envy at DHS permeates the destructive decision-making and leads to lack of cooperation, duplicative technology purchases and redundant facilities, which waste taxpayers’ money without yielding any increases in DHS mission effectiveness or efficiency.
Go to the nearest International airport to witness DHS intra-agency envy at work first-hand. Passengers arriving from international flights are first required to negotiate the long CBP line to review passports and travel documents. Rarely are there sufficient CBP Officers to man all of the passport inspections stations, so the lines and wait times are often quite long.
But that’s just the beginning.
Once travelers clear the CBP Passport line and retrieve their luggage, they stand in another line to declare importation of selected goods. Once get through that thicket, it‘s time to run to catch the next flight segment, but first DHS requires luggage to be rechecked. Then, once again, a traveler is forced to kick off his shoes and get into the long TSA line. Why so many different checks by so many different parts of DHS? Believe it or not, the answer is Envy.
The plain truth is that DHS has been unwilling to integrate disparate efforts into a seamless security system. The lack of integration is most apparent at international airport where passengers are forced into a multitude of different lines by the different sub-agencies of DHS.
Multiple inspections are hugely inefficient, but CBP and TSA are unwilling to share inspection resources, combine operations, or cooperate in any meaningful way to make it easier on the traveling public. Instead, turf battles and bureaucratic stovepipes are fiercely protected by different sub agencies that are envious of one another’s technology and are keen to protect a privileged position.
Even simple plans to wring greater efficiencies from the DHS assets at airports have been subject to turf battles and effectively beaten back. One common sense idea, advanced years ago, sought to make better use of the existing DHS officers assigned to airports by cross-training TSA and CBP officers.
Cross-training TSA officers assigned to baggage screening would allow them to augment CBP officers assigned to passport control, when huge lines of incoming international passengers required additional officers to check passports. Similarly, CBP officers could be cross-trained to augment TSA baggage screener when required to keep passengers moving swiftly through the security gauntlets.
Intra agency collaboration would create multi-tasking, multi-threaded personnel. Instead of having DHS officers capable of only one task, they could be cross-trained and shifted to whatever mission is most needed at any particular moment. But, amid ferocious internal resistance, the idea quickly died.
DHS has conducted years of surveys and studies of traveling passengers. Many foreigners have decided to limit their travel to the US because of frustrations with the DHS security system at the airports. There is a direct, and rather significant, cost in billions of dollars to the U.S. economy as a result. But apparently, the economic costs to the U.S. economy are not yet sufficient to force improved DHS efficiencies at our airports. Trade and tourism will have to continue to suffer.
Perhaps an even better example of bureaucratic envy at work in DHS is located along the border. Here again, legitimate travelers are required to first negotiate a long line at one of CBP’s many Ports of Entry along the border to enter the U.S. After a lengthy wait, cleared travelers are then allowed to proceed along their way, only to encounter the next DHS security check some 20 or so miles away, manned by the Border Patrol. The Border Patrol, no doubt, envious of the CBP mission at POEs, decided to build mini-POEs that look almost exactly like those along the border, but are manned, instead, by Border Patrol Officers. Why the redundancy? That’s a question for which there has never been a satisfactory answer.
The stupidity of building these mini-POEs some 20 miles from the border to perform another security check that was performed by another DHS agency, just a short time before, is baffling. More baffling still is the fact that the Border Patrol has decided to build permanent concrete facilities and cannot easily move their resources to meet changing requirements.
For example, when the President determines that the nation must ramp up the inspection of out bound cars and trucks to help Mexico interdict the illegal smuggling of guns and cash used by border drug cartels, DHS is unable to easily react.
The concrete Border Check Points, built on the roads leading into the US, provide little flexibility and are not easily moved to adapt to changing security needs. DHS is forced to scramble with a variety of robbing-Peter-to-Pay-Paul schemes, in order to stiffen outbound inspections. DHS has foolishly allowed envy and bureaucratic rivalries to result in the duplication of inbound inspection facilities, wasting resources, at great cost to the American taxpayer.
Next time you are waiting in a line at the airport, or caught in one of the many traffic snarls at the border, just take a look around. You will see DHS personnel performing redundant security checks. You may wonder why some of those people could not be used more efficiently at other stations. You may wonder why valuable taxpayer dollars are being spent on duplicative technologies without yielding additional efficiencies. Bureaucratic envy among the various DHS elements simply won’t allow it.