A couple of Fridays ago, I was scheduled to have a call with former U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar. I was shocked to learn the next morning that he had passed away in his sleep. I will always remember this about Jim Oberstar: whenever a change to our aviation system was proposed, the lens he would use to examine it was, we have the safest, most secure system in the world, and we need to keep it that way.
As a new DHS Secretary takes the helm, Security Debrief contributors came together for the First Chris Battle Homeland Security Colloquium. In the spirit of the late Chris Battle’s vision for debate and discussion on pressing homeland security matters, contributors weighed a series of important questions about DHS’ future.
The House Homeland Security Committee did something yesterday it has not done in the past several years, for anyone: it came out in full force for DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson’s maiden appearance before the committee. It was a positive performance by the Secretary, who showed himself adept at answering questions, even as his lawyer’s instincts kept him from falling into political traps.
On Thursday, February 27, 2014, Security Debrief and Catalyst Partners will host the First Annual Chris Battle Homeland Security Colloquium. Security Debrief’s expert contributors will come together to discuss and debate the current state of U.S. homeland security, DHS, and the threats and priorities the country will face in the year ahead.
There are a host of questions Congress ought to be asking about DHS’ use of Predator unmanned aerial vehicles to provide border surveillance. Congressional staff should know how the Predator’s cost stacks up against other alternative means of surveillance. Perhaps the problem is that decisions on what platform to use for border surveillance are not being made on the basis of risk-reward or cost-benefit.
News reports are trickling out about a decision by a Customs and Border Patrol Predator operator to send a multi-million dollar unmanned aerial vehicle into the Pacific Ocean when it became clear it could not make it back to its home base. This incident demands serious questions from Congress about the future of CBP’s Predator drone use.
The Honorable Jeh Johnson has been nominated to replace the long departed Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Janet Napolitano. Strangely, President Obama has portrayed Johnson as a highly qualified candidate. The President seems to be the only one who is impressed. There are a couple of major holes in Johnson’s resume.
Five years ago, I could have written that CBP was the worst agency in the federal government, almost hopeless. It was not responsive to stakeholders, seemed resistant to doing business new ways, and was being starved of resources by Congress. Fortunately, recent leadership at CBP has been much more open to new thinking. Old policies and staffing models remain a frustration, but the attitude has changed for the better.
The ongoing partial government shutdown and the looming debt ceiling debacle are the latest examples of the U.S. federal government’s perpetual dysfunction. The conflict between Congress and the Executive Office, as well as poor leadership all around, does not just impact budgets and deficits. Indeed, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has also suffered because of a federal government that can’t seem to get much done.