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Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management

Editor-in-Chief: Renda-Tanali, Irmak

Managing Editor: McGee, Sibel

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CiteScore 2018: 1.19

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Volume 11, Issue 1

“One DHS” Revisited: Can the Next Homeland Security Secretary Unite the Department?

Jerome Kahan
Published Online: 2014-01-04 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jhsem-2013-0088


Jeh Johnson has been confirmed as the new Secretary of Homeland Security. All three previous Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretaries have sought to ensure that the disparate set of components, directorates, and offices that compose DHS work together in a unified manner with common goals, attitudes, performance, and culture. However, while progress has been made, this essential but somewhat elusive “One DHS” goal has not yet been reached. The purpose of this article is to investigate the concept of One DHS to see how it might become a renewed rallying cry for making the second decade of this agency’s existence more successful than the first. It parses this goal into 10 dimensions or substantive areas, embellishes each of these topics, and suggests ways for gaining greater unity. Conclusions and recommendations for the new Secretary are offered for attaining and sustaining the One DHS goal going forward.

Keywords: Department of Homeland Security; One DHS; unification of DHS; Homeland Security Enterprise


About the article

Corresponding author: Jerome Kahan, 2311 Kimbro St., Alexandria, VA 22307, USA, Tel.: (703) 765-5467, e-mail:

Published Online: 2014-01-04

U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), “Secretary Napolitano Bids DHS Farewell,” September 9, 2013, www.dhs.gov/blog/2013/09/09/secretary-napolitano-bids-dhs-farewell.

Stephen Dinan, “Napolitano Reveals Key to Homeland Security Job: Advil,” Washington Times, August 27, 2013. www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/aug/27/napolitano-reveals-key-homeland-security-job-advil/ (accessed November 26, 2013).

Homeland Security Act of 2002, Pub. L. No. 107–296, 116 Stat. 2135 (2002).

Philip Shenon, “Threats and Responses: The Reorganization Plan; Establishing New Agency Is Expected to Take Years and Could Divert It from Mission,” New York Times, November 20, 2002, www.nytimes.com/2002/11/20/us/threats-responses-reorganization-plan-establishing-new-agency-expected-take.html (accessed November 26, 2013). For an analysis of how this initial structural decision has affected the subsequent functioning of DHS, see Jerome Kahan, “The Two Faces of DHS: Balancing the Department’s Responsibilities,” Homeland Security Affairs 9, Article 10 (July 2013), www.hsaj.org/?article=9.1.10.

In a 2009 interview, Secretary Ridge explained that challenges facing the newly formed department, which was put together rapidly under congressional pressure to do more in response to 9/11, ranged from management disunity to the lack of a strategic focus, to bureaucratic infighting, to low employee morale, as well as to dysfunctional systems and processes dealing with everything from procurement and finances to information technology and human resources. “Rachel Maddow Takes on Tom Ridge over WMD Justification for Invading Iraq,” Video Cafe, September 2, 2009, videocafe.crooksandliars.com/heather/rachel-maddow-takes-tom-ridge-over-wmd-jus.

DHS, “DHS Policy for Internal Information Exchange and Sharing,” February 1, 2007, www.pierce.ctc.edu/dist/coe/pdfDocs/Guidelines/DHS_Policy_for_Internal_Information_Exchange_Sharing.pdf.

“The Path Forward,” testimony of Secretary Janet Napolitano before the House Committee on Homeland Security on DHS (Washington, D.C., February 25, 2009), www.dhs.gov/news/2009/02/25/secretary-napalitanos-testimony-dhs-path-forward. Secretary Janet Napolitano, FY2012 Budget-in-Brief (Washington, D.C.: DHS, January 27, 2011), 9, www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/budget-bib-fy2012.pdf. This point was reinforced in early 2013 when the secretary spoke about further integration and development of a One DHS culture to improve effectiveness, decision making, and prioritization of resources. Budget-in-Brief, Fiscal Year 2014 (Washington, D.C., February 2, 2011), 8 et seq., www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/MGMT/FY%202014%20BIB%20-%20FINAL%20-508%20Formatted%20%284%29.pdf.

“Remarks by Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano at the National Press Club” (Washington, D.C., August 27, 2013), www.dhs.gov/news/2013/08/27/remarks-secretary-homeland-security-janet-napolitano-national-press-club. The secretary said she would give a letter to her successor with a list of issues requiring attention, including, as noted earlier, the need for greater unification. Noting that “you will confront everything … the evolving threat of terrorism, devastating natural disasters, and the need for strong border security and immigration enforcement,” she offered some suggestions about the need to promote better relations with Congress, stakeholders, and international partners. For homeland security issues facing Congress, see William L. Painter, Issues in Homeland Security Policy for the 113th Congress, CRS Report R42985 (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service, September 23, 2013), www.fas.org/sgp/crs/homesec/R42985.pdf.

DHS, as currently configured and conducted, will likely remain approximately as it is for the longer term rather than undergoing major overhauls, including downsizing, or being abolished as a separate agency.

Creating a main consolidated location at St. Elizabeth’s as planned will help unify the department operationally, administratively, and culturally. However, as Secretary Napolitano noted in her testimony before the House Committee on Homeland Security on DHS, DHS “is not a building; it is the people in the Department who will determine its success”; see Testimony of Secretary Janet Napolitano, “The Path Forward.”

Michael P. Jackson, “Memorandum for All DHS Employees,” January 30, 2007, posted by Bill Conroy, The Narcosphere, January 31, 2007, narcosphere.narconews.com/notebook/bill-conroy/2007/01/dhs-memo-reveals-agency-personnel-are-treated-quothuman-capitalquot.

U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), DHS: Taking Further Action to Better Determine Causes of Morale Problems Would Assist in Targeting Action, GAO 12-940 (Washington, D.C., September 2012), www.gao.gov/assets/650/648997.pdf. See also Robert Longley, “Low Morale in Homeland Security, GAO Reports,” about.com Guide, November 8, 2012, usgovinfo.about.com/b/2012/11/08/low-morale-in-homeland-security-gao-reports.htm (accessed November 30, 2013).

Securing the Future: Management Lessons of 9/11 (Washington, D.C., and Herndon, Va.: Partnership for Public Service and Booz-Allen and Hamilton, August 2011), 10, www.boozallen.com/media/file/Management_Lessons_of_9-11.pdf.

DHS, Report of the Homeland Security Culture Task Force (Washington, D.C.: Homeland Security Culture Task Force, Homeland Security Advisory Council, January 2007), 8, www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/hsac-culture-010107.pdf.

GAO, High-Risk Series: An Update, GAO-13-283 (Washington, D.C.: GAO, February 14, 2013), 31, www.gao.gov/assets/660/652133.pdf. This series of reports addresses DHS’s progress in implementing its homeland security missions since it began operations, identifies work remaining, and flags issues adversely affecting implementation efforts. For a particularly insightful assessment of DHS’s management issues, see Securing the Future: Management Lessons of 9/11, 4.

Report of the Homeland Security Culture Task Force, 8.

GAO, High-Risk Series: An Update, 32.

Statement of Rafal Borras, “Subcommittee Hearing: Homeland Security Contracting: Does DHS Effectively Leverage Emerging Technologies?” before House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Investigations, Oversight, and Management (Washington, D.C., July 15, 2011), homeland.house.gov/sites/homeland.house.gov/files/Testimony%20Borras.pdf.

GAO, High-Risk Series: An Update, 32. Italics added by author.

Information Technology Integration and Management, MD 0007.1 (Washington, D.C.: DHS, March 15, 2007), www.0007_1_information_technology_integration_and_management.pdf. See also, “Department of Homeland Security Information Sharing Strategy” (April 18, 2008), 4, www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/dhs_information_sharing_strategy.pdf., and Irene Moffatt, “Implementing the ‘One DHS’ Policy: The DHS Information Sharing Agreements Process and Tools,” USCG Proceedings 67, no. 2 (Summer 2010): 14–15, www.uscg.mil/proceedings/summer2010/articles/14_Hoffman-Moffat.pdf.

“DHS Policy for Internal Information Exchange and Sharing,” 1.

Information Technology Integration and Management, MD 0007.1.

The CIO commented that DHS is a federated model, with a central CIO and CIOs throughout all the various offices, directorates, and components. What is needed is to work together to find the “dividing line between what we were trying to do at an enterprise level versus what should be left to the components to do,” which we have essentially done.” See J. Nicholas Hoover, “Q&A: Homeland Security CIO Outlines Key Challenges,” Information Week, March 3, 2010, www.informationweek.com/government/leadership/qanda-homeland-security-cio-outlines-key-challenges/d/d-id/1087304?.

For an overview, see DHS, “National Network of Fusion Centers Fact Sheet,” www.dhs.gov/national-network-fusion-centers-fact-sheet. The CIA and FBI as well as DHS provide needed intelligence to these state and local centers, but Congress and others have criticized these efforts from the left (too much information as threat to privacy) and from the right (get these centers what data they need to do their job).

“Testimony of Alan Cohn, Policy’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Strategic Plans, before the House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Management Regarding How DHS Is Implementing a Strategy to Counter Emerging Threats” (Washington, D.C., February 2, 2012), www.dhs.gov/news/2012/02/02/testimony-alan-cohn-policys-deputy-assistant-secretary-office-strategic-plans-house. The OIP also supports the Management Directorate’s Office of Program Analysis & Evaluation, which administers the Planning, Programming, Budget, and Evaluation (PPBE) process.

James Jay Carafano and David Heyman, DHS 2.0: Rethinking the Department of Homeland Security (Washington, D.C.: Heritage Foundation and the Center for Strategic and International Studies, December 13, 2004), thf_media.s3.amazonaws.com/2004/pdf/sr02.pdf. The department responded by sending such an initiative to the Hill, as it requires changes in the Homeland Security Act. Many years later, after follow-on efforts by DHS, still no actions on this matter have been taken.

Budget in Brief, Fiscal Year 2014.

James Jay Carafano and Jessica Zuckerman, “DHS Office of Policy: Misguided Reorganization Threatens Homeland Security Strategic Planning,” Heritage Foundation, Issue Brief #3502, February 2013, www.heritage.org/research/reports/2012/02/dhs-office-of-policy-misguided-reorganization-threatens-homeland-security-strategic-planning.

This is the first step in the transition from the planning to the programming phase of the department’s PPBE process, which leads to the annual DHS budget document that is submitted to the Office of Management and Budget and eventually becomes part of the president’s budget request to Congress. The DHS Intelligence and Analysis Division provides a common threat assessment for use in developing these planning documents.

DHS, Risk Management Fundamentals: Homeland Security Risk Management Doctrine (Washington, D.C., April 2011), www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/rma-risk-management-fundamentals.pdf.

Such capabilities can include strategic planning methods, resource allocation processes, trade-off and risk analyses, net assessments, modeling capabilities, statistical analyses, and performance measures.

DHS, “Acquisition Line of Business Integration and Management,” MD Number 0003 (October 28, 2004), www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/foia/mgmt_directive_0003_acquisition_line_of_business_integration_and_management.pdf.

GAO, Department of Homeland Security: Assessments of Selected Complex Acquisitions, GAO-10-588SP (June 2010), 1, www.gao.gov/assets/210/204132.pdf.

“Homeland Security Regulation (HSAR), Revision Initiative [HSAR Case 2009-002],” Federal Register 77, no. 163 (Washington, D.C., August 22, 2012), www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-08-22/pdf/2012-20440.pdf.

Stew Magnuson, “DHS Considers Reviving Dormant Joint Requirements Council,” National Defense, December 2011, www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/archive/2011/December/Pages/DHSConsidersRevivingDormantJointRequirementsCouncil.aspx

See DHS Science and Technology Directorate, www.dhs.gov/science-and-technology-directorate. This directorate also funds basic research at a number of universities, as summarized in Guide to FY 2014 Research Funding at the Department of Homeland Security (Washington, D.C., August 26, 2013), research.usc.edu/files/2011/05/Guide-to-FY2014-DHS-Research-Funding.pdf.

GAO, “GAO Highlights,” Department of Homeland Security: Strategic Management of Training for Successful Transformation,GAO-05-888 (Washington, D.C., September 2005), www.gao.gov/assets/250/247887.pdf.

For a method to ensure that specific component courses are tied to strategic documents such as the QHSR, see Jerome Kahan (Task Lead), Strategic Program Assessment for DHS Learning Development (Arlington, VA: Homeland Security Studies and Analysis Institute, June 30, 2010), www.homelandsecurity.org/docs/reports/Final_Assessment_Method_Rev_26_Aug_2010.pdf.

Jonah Czerwinski, “DOD & DHS Convene 2-Day Workshop on ‘Jointness,’” Homeland Security Watch, December 16, 2008, www.hlswatch.com/2008/12/16/dod-dhs-convene-2-day-workshop-on-jointness/.

For more on how George Tanner, until recently the DHS chief learning officer, has sought to enhance professional training and education, including the Homeland Security University concept, see Brian Summerfield, “E Pluribus Unum: Uniting Organizations Through Learning,” Chief Learning Officer, July 30, 2008, clomedia.com/articles/view/e_pluribus_unum_uniting_organizations_through_learning.

Jerome Kahan, “It’s Never Too Late,” Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management 10, no. 1 (April 2013), at jhsem-2012-0030.

Mark Rockwell, “Lawmakers Want Study on DHS Office Consolidation around Regional Hubs,” Government Security News, October 14, 2011, www.gsnmagazine.com/node/24755.

Jason Miller, “With 108 Congressional Bosses, DHS at Oversight ‘Tipping Point,’” Federal News Radio, September 9, 2011, www.federalnewsradio.com/108/2534188/With-108-Congressional-bosses-DHS-at-oversight-tipping-point.

Paul Rosenzweig, Jena Baker McNeill, and James Jay Calafano, “Stopping the Chaos: A Proposal for Reorganization of Congressional Oversight of the Department of Homeland Security,” WebMemo #3046, Heritage Foundation, November 4, 2010, www.heritage.org/research/reports/2010/11/stopping-the-chaos-a-proposal-for-reorganization-of-congressional-oversight-of-dhs. See also Jessica Zuckerman, “DHS: Congressional Oversight Remains Broken,” Heritage Foundation, The Foundry, January 3, 2013, blog.heritage.org/2013/01/03/dhs-congressional-oversight-remains-broken/.

Cindy Williams, Strengthening Homeland Security: Reforming Planning and Resource Allocation, 2008 Presidential Transition Series (Washington, D.C.: IBM Center for The Business of Government, 2008), 38, academic.udayton.edu/richardghere/emergency%20mngt/CindyWilliamsReport.pdf.

See GAO, “Statement of Gene L. Dodaro,” Department of Homeland Security: Progress Made and Work Remaining in Implementing Homeland Security Missions, 10 Years after 9/11, GAO 11-9190T (Washington, D.C., September 7, 2011), www.gao.gov/assets/130/126861.pdf.

GAO, “Statement of Cathleen Berrick,” Department of Homeland Security: Progress Made in Implementation and Transformation of Management Functions, But More Work Remains, GAO-10-911T (Washington, D.C., September 30, 2010), 15, 18, www.gao.gov/assets/130/125356.pdf. As noted by Ms. Berrick, “We define management integration as the development of consistent and consolidated processes, systems, and people – in areas such as information technology, financial management, procurement, and human capital – as well as in its security and administrative services, for greater efficiency and effectiveness” (2).

DHS, Brief Documentary History of the Department of Homeland Security, 2001–2008 (Washington, D.C., 2009), www.hsdl.org/?view&did=37027. See also Kahan, “Two Faces of DHS.”

DHS, “Written Testimony of US Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano for a House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Homeland Security hearing on the Department′s Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Request” (Washington, D.C., April 11, 2013), www.dhs.gov/news/2013/04/11/written-testimony-dhs-secretary-janet-napolitano-house-committee-appropriations.

Citation Information: Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Volume 11, Issue 1, Pages 1–24, ISSN (Online) 1547-7355, ISSN (Print) 2194-6361, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jhsem-2013-0088.

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