DHS AT STAGE TWO: Focusing on Outcomes
The behemoth Department of Homeland Security has been criticized for its sheer size and slow reaction time, but there is hope that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff is working to tame the bureaucratic beast. He suggested as much in testimony this month before the House Government Reform Committee.
The problem was summed up succinctly by Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), who made the following observation about the unification of 23 separate agencies and bureaus into the Department of Homeland Security: “Truth be told, we created a fairly blunt instrument to wield against an agile, subtle foe. In effect, we built a four-headed octopus and asked it to perform brain surgery the next day.”
Two years later, Chertoff has initiated a so-called “second-stage review” of the department. Here’s how Chertoff describes his basic philosophy: “Our structures and programs have to be outcome-oriented. The philosophy of risk management is the template for our decisions. [We are examining] every department to identify ways to better manage risk in terms of threat, vulnerability and consequence.”
Pending improvements include a new human resource management system that will assign mission goals to each employee and reward them for performance. Chertoff further pledged to rely on existing technology from the private sector as a means of meeting the department’s goals.
It’s understandable that a huge government entity like the Department of Homeland Security would have growing pains and a spotty achievement record in the early going. Hope for attaining long-term success in meeting its mission lies in the department’s ability to learn from mistakes, evaluate the situation at hand and move forward in a businesslike way. Hopefully, Chertoff’s words will soon translate into action.
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