On Guard

Despite criticism, DHS moves ahead with programs to beef up border protection and cybersecurity.

The Homeland Security Department has seen three secretaries, two administrations and several disasters, which served as crucial tests of its management capabilities. But in bureaucratic years the department is practically a newborn, and it is still struggling to define its role among its much older siblings in government.

DHS answers to 86 congressional committees and subcommittees, and its responsibilities range from preparing for a nuclear terrorist attack to rescuing Ohio fishermen stuck on an ice block in the middle of Lake Erie. In 2008, it continued to endure criticism that it is an ungainly bureaucracy without the focus or nimbleness needed to fight the electronic security wars of the 21st century. Despite haggling over privacy issues and its ability to oversee its projects, the department pushed for funding increases in the president's fiscal 2010 budget request. The common denominator, it seems, is technology.

Bricks-and-mortar spending accounts for much of the budget at DHS-including a Coast Guard request for $700 million in fiscal 2010 to purchase five cutters and two planes-but more and more funding is going to high-tech programs to protect the nation from dangerous intruders, whether they traverse the borders or cyberspace.

For instance, DHS has installed a new radio frequency identification system to monitor travelers passing through the Mexico border at San Ysidro, Calif., the largest land port of entry in the United States. The system allows DHS to quickly identify travelers with an enhanced passport, driver's license or State Department identification card to expedite the border-crossing process. The department deployed the system earlier this year and plans to expand it across the country as part of its Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. In testimony on Capitol Hill, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano touted RFID as one of many examples of how Homeland Security has developed specialized technology for border security, anti-terrorism and other functions.

Customs and Border Protection-the bureau that uses the radio frequency identification technology-saw its budget increase by nearly 20 percent in 2008, funding initiatives aimed at turning a technological eye on security, such as the E-Verify program and the Secure Border Initiative Network.

In 2008, Congress appropriated more than $1 billion for SBInet, which is heavily administered by Boeing Co. But the program has been saddled with delays and criticism on Capitol Hill. Despite some skepticism from Napolitano, who dealt with those issues firsthand when she was governor of Arizona, the Obama administration requested nearly $800 million for SBInet in 2010.

The 2010 budget request also includes $565 million for the Electronic Baggage Screening Program, an effort to scan all checked luggage at airports for explosives. And cybersecurity initiatives would get a boost of $355 million, or 20 percent, although the department has been criticized for lacking the clout to organize a governmentwide defense against online threats. In 2008, a nonpartisan panel suggested DHS shouldn't be in charge of cybersecurity. The administration has yet to act on all the recommendations, but it has shifted some of the coordination from DHS to the White House.

Both legislative chambers trimmed some of DHS' budget requests, but the department still is set to receive a funding increase of at least $2.6 billion in 2010.

Click here for the top 25 homeland security contractors.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.