Paul Schneider is a principal at the Chertoff Group. Previously, he was deputy secretary for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), where he managed day-to-day operations of an organization with approximately 220,000 employees and an annual budget of $52.6 billion. Earlier, as under secretary for management, he was responsible for the department’s financial management and for the procurement and management of such mission-critical assets as information technology systems, facilities, and equipment. He has also served as the senior acquisition executive of the National Security Agency, where he oversaw the development and acquisition of information security programs. Between 1998 and 2002, he was principal deputy assistant secretary at the Department of the Navy. In between government service, Schneider was a consultant working on defense and aerospace issues.Testifying before Congress in February, Schneider recommended that DHS begin a fundamental reorganization of how it conducts business as federal budgets get cut. Security Management sat down with him at the Chertoff Group’s office in Washington, D.C., to discuss his recommendations and his cybersecurity concerns.
The DHS, now the government’s third biggest department, has a motto: “One DHS.” Has that been achieved yet?
What’s been accomplished in the period of time it’s been there is kind of remarkable, quite frankly. My view is “How do you make it better in a severely constrained budget environment?” Anyone who says it’s not one department, I think, is not operating on the facts. You have to take a look at what’s the next step. I come from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). It’s not unlike how the DoD matured from the time it became the DoD in 1947 until you had Goldwater-Nichols. I think now the impetus is greater with some of the budget realities that heretofore have not existed.
In February, you recommended that DHS undergo reorganization like the Defense Department did under the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act. What exactly did Goldwater-Nichols do?
It fundamentally changed the way the warfighters fight. It came up with a clear delineation between what the services do and what the actual warfighters do. That’s why you have a CENTCOM and a SOUTHCOM. I think it’s absolutely essential when you’re operating in a geographic area that the combatant commander has complete authority over all of his operational forces in that area. That’s straightforward command and control. Then there is an important function that the services do, in terms of recruiting, training, and sustaining.
The other thing you have to do is realize that one of the things the DoD does really well is adapting lessons learned from each of these different areas and then incorporating that into actual doctrine. Look at how we train today inside DHS; it’s somewhat stove-piped. So how does what happens when they actually work together get reflected back into the training? And that’s why I think this is the next phase for DHS. I do not think the department can enjoy the luxury of building up acquisition and logistics expertise at all of these operating components, especially when the majority of the programs are IT programs that are all interconnected.
The other main element is to separate the acquisition function from the warfighters to focus attention on acquisition by the acquisition professionals, not the warfighters.
You stated in your congressional testimony that the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner shouldn’t be bogged down in technical details regarding some IT program. Can you speak a bit more about that?
He shouldn’t be. He should be in a situation where it’s like the DoD. He identifies his requirements and it goes to a Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC). There have been many attempts at DHS to establish that. For example, the CBP chief would say “I have a requirement for this type of a system that gives me these capabilities; now, you acquisition techies figure out the best way to go do it.”
If I were the head of CBP, I would focus on operational law enforcement. I would be focused on keeping the bad guys and bad stuff out of the country. You would get a lot of buy-in from the rank and file who are out in the field. People think DHS is a bureaucracy here in D.C. It is not. It’s all over the world, and these are the people who are putting their lives on the line every day. Those types of people want to believe that their bosses are focused on what they do. They don’t want their bosses focused on the management of the development of an IT system.