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Report calls for Homeland Security reorganization

Department urged to create an undersecretary of policy to focus on long-range planning.

The current structure of the Homeland Security Department hampers the ability of its secretary to successfully implement security measures, according to a report released Monday.

"The organization is weighed down with bureaucratic layers, is rife with turf warfare and lacks a structure for strategic thinking and policymaking," David Heyman, director of the homeland security program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), said at a National Press Club briefing. Heyman paired with James Jay Carafano, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, to produce the report.

The report recommends the creation of several new undersecretary positions at the department.

Specifically, Carafano called on Homeland Security to create an undersecretary of policy to provide "long-range thinking" and "programmatic analysis." The department currently lacks a "high-level policy officer with the staff, authority and gravitas to articulate and enforce policy guidance throughout and across the department," the report said.

Carafano also suggested that the current director for Homeland Security's international affairs office be converted to an assistant secretary position under the policy undersecretary.

He added that the lack of congressional oversight of the department is the greatest obstacle to the department's success. The Senate's plan to give the Governmental Affairs Committee some authority over the department but not its Coast Guard or Transportation Security Administration elements is "wholly inadequate," he said.

The House plan for a permanent Homeland Security Committee, by contrast, is a "terrific" idea and "spot on," Carafano said.

Efforts to bolster border security have "succeeded in some degree" by providing a "single, uniform face at the border," but more needs to be done, Heyman said.

He called for eliminating the post of undersecretary of border transportation and security, currently held by Asa Hutchinson, and urged Homeland Security to merge its functions on customs, border patrol and immigration and customs enforcement. Heyman also pushed for consolidating the US-VISIT technology for tracking immigrants into those merged elements.

"These are specific ideas to be considered by Congress and the executive branch," Heyman said. He hopes lawmakers will examine the findings and craft legislation to implement his suggestions "within the next six months."

To those who might suggest it is too early to reorganize Homeland Security, which was created from various existing government entities in 2003, Carafano said it is imperative that policymakers act before the agency becomes too "locked" to make any changes.

"We need to make changes now before the stakeholders become so ingrained" in the current system that it will take another terrorist attack or 40 years of hassling to make changes, he said.

Heyman agreed. "At this point, [the department] operates like an ad hoc conglomeration of startup companies," he said.

"We really need to embrace genuine reform," added John Hamre, the CEO of CSIS.