Homeland security officials set to implement organizational changes

Homeland Security Department officials said they plan to eliminate duplicative practices and unnecessary bureaucracy in an effort to integrate intelligence, policy and operations.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said he plans to announce recommendations and changes in about a month, based on the departmentwide review he initiated in March.

"This comprehensive review is examining what we are doing and what we need to do without regard to component structures and programmatic categories," Chertoff told the House Government Reform Committee.

Chertoff said his intent is to integrate intelligence, policy and operations at the most senior levels across the department.

"We cannot wait for a crisis … to learn, for example, whether the Transportation Security Administration has the capability to communicate effectively and coordinate with the Federal Emergency Management Agency," he said in written testimony. "Nor can we learn in crisis that both are conducting the same operations or sending different messages to the private sector."

The first phase of the review has been completed and focused on gathering input from every agency within the department concerning policies, operations, organization and gaps, according to Al Martinez-Fonts, special assistant to the secretary, and Coast Guard Rear Adm. Tim Sullivan.

"We're looking to eliminate duplication," Sullivan said.

The first phase generated 300 suggestions. Based on those responses, 18 action teams were formed to examine such areas as risk readiness, immigration policy, supply chain security, performance metrics and intelligence operations. About 230 people participated on the teams. Martinez-Fonts and Sullivan said common themes were identified across agencies, such as the need for better intelligence sharing and more effective and efficient screening of people and cargo.

Chertoff said he will meet with the action teams during the next three weeks to determine the organizational changes that should be made.

"Take an issue such as maritime cargo security, which cuts across several departmental components," he said in his testimony. "Customs and Border Protection, Coast Guard, Science and Technology, Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Transportation Security Administration each address aspects of this overall mission. Each might perform its element well, but we must go further to ensure that each is performing seamlessly and in coordination with the others, that we eliminate any duplication of effort and that we reap the full strength of our wide spectrum of capabilities."

With regard to integrating intelligence, Chertoff said the department needs "to fuse and exploit all the information that we learn across the country."

He said he is committed to making sure that law enforcement and intelligence officials have access to the department's information and analysis, when it is appropriate and legal to do so while protecting privacy and civil rights.

"By the same token, we must sit as full partners at the table with full access to others in the intelligence community," he stated. "I will work closely with the director of national intelligence, whose job is to make sure that the intelligence community is well-coordinated and mission-focused."

Chertoff said the review is "closely studying" whether a departmentwide policy office should be established. The secretary said also that legacy agencies within the department don't work together to address shared missions. "It can no longer be the case that different components tackle different problems, each in its own way, and then later look to see if the pieces fit together," he said.

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