The House Committee on Homeland Security held hearings on yet another “biometric exit” mandate, which would require collection of biometrics from travelers departing the country and matching them to biometrics obtained at arrival. Yet, there are already several laws mandating entry-exit data matching. It’s almost like there is some sort of disconnect between the Hill and DHS.
At Wednesday’s Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee confirmation hearing for Stevan Bunnell as DHS General Counsel and Suzanne Spaulding as Under Secretary of NPPD, both Chairman Tom Carper and Ranking Member Tom Coburn decried the number of leadership vacancies at DHS. Senator Carper and Coburn’s comments are a positive development, even if the political headwinds are very strong.
Another 9/11 anniversary is upon us. Looking back over the last 12 years, the United States has made a lot of progress in securing the country, and much of this progress grew out of the 9/11 Commission recommendations. Yet, one of these recommendations has not received much action – indeed, no action at all. Congressional oversight of homeland security is as duplicative, wasteful and counterproductive as ever.
For all of the names being bounced around for DHS Secretary, a couple have caught me by surprise, but none of them was as jaw dropping as the news that the Congressional Black Caucus is encouraging President Obama to nominate Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee as a replacement for outgoing-DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. I can only hope that others see her consideration for one of the toughest jobs in the world for what it really is – an unrealistic and unfunny joke.
Charles Kenny, a Fellow with the New America Foundation and the Center for Global Development, published an opinion piece in Bloomberg BusinessWeek called, “The Case for Abolishing the DHS.” He makes some powerfully accurate assessments on the return on investment from DHS, but as powerful as those arguments and examples may be, Kenny’s declaration that “closing the DHS is a small government solution that works” is a glass-is- half-empty summation that misses some important metrics.
The Center for International Policy recently released a report entitled “Drones Over the Homeland,” which provides an excellent analysis of CBP’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicle program from inception to the present. It adds significantly to the debate Congress should be having about the wisdom of using UAVs for surveillance. I hope congressional appropriators will take note.
When I attend various meetings around DC on cyber issues, I often see confusion and challenge – good people trying to resolve confusing issues, wrestling with individual – as well as the country’s – social and political demons. Cyber is a new kind of land. It has no physical dimension. There are no borders or boundaries, and everyone seems to be a part of something that no one can control. People in DC are bit lost right now, and there are some distinct cultural reasons why.
The Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) most recent decision regarding the prohibited items list has drawn the ire of some in the Congress, as well as the flying public. Critics argue any vulnerability is unacceptable, but from TSA’s risk-based perspective, there are other aviation stakeholders who shoulder the safety responsibility. Recognizing that most people, even those with knives, do not run around stabbing others, from whom does non-explosive threat largely stem? In short, drunks on planes.
This past Monday, Politico hosted a Playbook breakfast conversation with the three individuals who have served as DHS Secretary since its inception – Tom Ridge, Michael Chertoff and Janet Napolitano. Former Governor Ridge who addressed why America needs a cabinet-level agency to address homeland security issues. While I am a firm believer that America needs a Department of Homeland Security, I am also a believer in continuous improvement, and in that respect, congressional oversight should rightfully be focused on asking questions about DHS as it starts its second decade.
The Jainists of India have a parable. It is the story about the blind men feeling the elephant – each one feels something different. Watching the Federal government roll out a cyber “strategy” over the past couple of week has felt just that way. The cyber-elephant is a vast and ever-expanding body, and Washington is mucking around this way because of two basic problems. In its simplistic form, the first challenge is definitional and the second challenge is doctrinal.