The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, not only sent seismic shockwaves through American society, they jolted the U.S. government into action. One of the actions taken was to create the White House Office of Homeland Security. But the office lacks the statutory authority and budgetary power to fulfill its mission. To remedy those problems and take action in the wake of embarrassing revelations of glitches in information sharing in the Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation prior to September 11, President Bush plans to create a new cabinet department that cobbles together parts of some of the many agencies involved in homeland defense. Strangely, however, none of the president’s “reforms” is likely to solve the problems of information sharing between organizations.
The presidential directive that instituted the office also created the Homeland Security Council. Intended to address homeland security issues, the council is a carbon copy of the existing National Security Council, which addresses national security concerns. But the National Security Council has statutory responsibility for coordinating national security issues—which the fight against terrorism seems to be—whereas the new Homeland Security Council is essentially an empty shell. Thus, the government already had the machinery needed to coordinate homeland security prior to the president’s initiatives. Creating new bureaucratic organizations does not correct existing problems of inefficiency, bureaucratic inertia, and failure to share information.
Instead, efforts for increased security should focus on timely intelligence sharing, threat recognition, and action. Without dramatic improvements in those areas, coordination and implementation of policy by the new offices and department will likely remain problematic.