A Department Under Fire

By Matthew Harwood

DHS top managers who subscribe to that way of thinking find things like acquisition review boards, receiving clean financial audits, and assessing human capital distracting to the mission of protecting the country, Maurer says. “Sometimes that’s okay, but if you have too much of that, then you end up with systems that don’t work, and you end up wasting millions of dollars,” he notes.

There have been signs of improvement. On the management side, Maurer says, there is now more attention and focus on getting the fundamentals right. For example, more emphasis is now placed on technology testing, better bookkeeping, and assessing human capital needs.

Moreover, he says, upper DHS management recognizes the problems. In particular, Maurer gives kudos to Raphael Boras, DHS’s undersecretary for management, for beginning to seriously reform the way DHS does business.

But Maurer cautions that it will take some time to get DHS working better and more efficiently. “They’re turning the aircraft carrier around,” he says. “It takes a long time to do it.”

Some members of Congress may not be as tolerant of the department’s slow pace of reform as multiple examples of waste, fraud, and abuse have already taken a toll on the department’s reputation on Capitol Hill.

After a Senate subcommittee released a scathing report on federal support for fusion centers in October, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) used it to argue against expanding DHS’s responsibilities. “This report should make clear why I and many of my colleagues are unwilling to entrust the [DHS] with the vital task of protecting our nation’s cybersecurity.”



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