Congressional Quarterly surveyed homeland security experts, a number of whom are contributors to Security Debrief, on the state and future of homeland security. In this second installment, experts consider the Obama administration’s largest error in 2009. Some of the responses are provided below.
In part one of CQ Homeland Security’s series kicking off 2010, we asked experts to define the Obama administration’s best homeland security move in 2009. Today, we’re taking the opposite tack, asking them to name the administration’s biggest misstep.
• Asa Hutchinson, former under secretary of homeland security and a founding partner of the business-consulting firm the Hutchinson Group: “The worst move has been in the failure to move quickly on key security positions and agency heads. I was confirmed and at work in August of 2001 as head of the [Drug Enforcement Administration] during the first Bush administration. This is December and many agencies, including TSA and DEA, do not have its leadership team in place. This administration has moved slowly and the result is that critical security agencies are without leadership or have been dangerously delayed in having its new leadership.”
• James Jay Carafano, senior research fellow and director of the institutes of International Studies and Foreign Policy at the Heritage Foundation: “Pretending to overturn Bush programs with measures that are merely symbolic or politically motivated.”
• Christopher Battle, a partner at the Adfero Group: “Worst: giving no power to the cyber czar to effect policy. Second worst: the decision to neuter the 287(g) program [which authorizes local police to enforce federal immigration laws]. It is unlikely that the administration is serious about tackling internal immigration enforcement without partnering with local law enforcement. The five [thousand] or six thousand agents at ICE, which also have a remarkably broad jurisdiction of other criminal investigations, cannot possibly locate and deport the ten-plus million illegal immigrations currently living in the United States.”
• Randy Beardsworth, a principal at Catalyst Partners: “Taking their eye off the existential threats of nuclear and biological attacks. It’s not that the administration has not addressed the issues — it’s that they haven’t done enough given the nature of the threat and the consequences of such an attack. Yes, the White House National Security Staff now has a WMD Terrorism Directorate, and yes, there is acknowledgment of the biological threat. But there isn’t the sense of urgency to shore up our defenses against the low probability, extremely high consequence event of a nuclear detonation. Without national-level strategic guidance, our move toward implementing a global nuclear detection architecture has been adrift this year. Similarly, the national strategic guidance on biological attack has not been sufficiently reinforced (and beefed up) by the current administration.”