Tough times could make Homeland Security more productive

Admiral James Loy Admiral James Loy U.S. Coast Guard

Budget austerity could help increase productivity at the Homeland Security Department, according to panelists hosted by a Washington security think tank on Thursday.

Speakers at an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies to discuss the future of DHS, said more synergies could be found through combining key back-office functions -- such as information technology, human resources and procurement. Chad Sweet, CEO of the Chertoff Group and chief of staff to former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, said looming budget cuts could be the key to spur “jointness” in the department’s core missions.

“This is the golden moment when you have the opportunity to streamline,” Sweet said.

Other panelists suggested Homeland Security engage better with the private sector to take advantage of outside innovation. Adm. James Loy, a senior counselor with The Cohen Group, said industry has the potential to answer some of the toughest challenges the department faces, including the imminent threat of cyberattacks.

“We need to have a dramatically better way of reaching the private sector,” Loy said

Another obstacle DHS must deal with, according to panelists, is the tangled web of congressional committees that oversee the department. This complicated model can hinder budgeting and planning, panelists said. CSIS Senior Vice President David Berteau said DHS should look to the Defense Department for ideas on how to confront this challenge.  

“DHS has not figured out how to have institutional processes that manage changes in political leadership,” Berteau said.

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