On Sunday, we will reach an anniversary that few will recall, but fortunately Reason and Reason TV recall it for us. Don’t worry about sending flowers or candy to the DHS for their 10th anniversary; we’ve been sending them billions in cash for years, and as Nick Gillespie reminds us, we haven’t even gotten thank-you cards in return. Well, we did get groped at an airport occasionally, but it’s hardly the same thing.
Seriously, what have we accomplished by folding a number of agencies into a massive bureaucracy? Did “homeland” security improve over what might have been accomplished with a smaller, lighter, more nimble organization? Or did we just create an excuse to build another massively expensive, oft-delayed government building in Washington DC?
1. It’s unnecessary. In the months immediately following September 11 attacks in 2001, President George W.Bush initially resisted calls to create a new high-level bureaucracy that would be laid on top of current activities. He was right to recognize that coordinating existing agencies would have been smarter and better. Unfortunately, he caved in to pressure to create a massive new department.
2. It’s ineffective. To read the titles of Government Accountability Office(GAO) analyses of Homeland Security is to be reminded constantly that DHS is never quite on top of its game.Recent reports include “DHS Requires More Disciplined Investment Management to Help Meet Mission Needs,” “DHS Needs Better Project Information and Coordination Among Four Overlapping Grant Programs,” and “Agriculture Inspection Program Has Made Some Improvements, But Management Challenges Persist.”
3. It’s expensive. Last year, Homeland Security spent a whopping $60 billion, a figure that will doubtlessly increase in coming years. The construction of its new headquarters – the single-largest project ever undertaken by The General Services Administration – will cost at least $4 billion and is already years behind on schedule since breaking ground in 2009.
Since it’s the holiday season, here’s a bonus reason to get rid of the Department of Homeland Security: It also runs the Transportation Security Administration, whose nasty reputation for manhandling innocent travelers is only slightly more annoying than its massive and undeserved growth in personnel and cost over the past decade.
Perhaps it’s time to rethink the “bigger is better” philosophy of organization — and budgeting — in Washington DC.