We Could Have Seen This Coming!

Article in TheGuardian: Trump Cuts Undermine Coronavirus Containment;  Watchdog Report. Direct link to the report:  An Embattled Landscape Series, Part 2a: Coronavirus and the Three-Year Trump Quest to Slash Science at the CDC

Here is another example of short-sightedness See this account from Politico:  DHS wound down pandemic models before coronavirus struck. A vital modeling program was sidelined amid a bureaucratic battle, former officials say, leaving U.S. less prepared to face the virus.

IG Office at DHS Not Adequate

From the WashPost: DHS inspector general’s office nearly dormant under Trump as reports and audits plummet.

The Department of Homeland Security’s internal watchdog division has been so weakened under the Trump administration that it is failing to provide basic oversight of the government’s third-largest federal agency, according to whistleblowers and lawmakers from both parties.

DHS’s Office of the Inspector General is on pace to publish fewer than 40 audits and reports this fiscal year, the smallest number since 2003 and one-quarter of the agency’s output in 2016, when it published 143, records show. The audits and reports cover everything from contracts and spending to allegations of waste and misconduct.

At a time w hen DHS has morphed into an instrument for some of President Trump’s most ambitious domestic policies, the inspector general’s role calls for the office to exert rigorous oversight of the department’s $70 billion budget and 240,000 employees, Democratic and Republican lawmakers say.

New Report on Lack of Permanent Leadership at DHS

From the DHS Office of Inspector General: Lack of Permanent Leadership Compounded DHS Challenges

A new Inspector General (OIG) report defined the most pressing challenges facing the third largest federal agency as:

  • Managing Programs and Operations Effectively and Efficiently during times of Changes in Leadership, Vacancies, and Hiring Difficulties;
  • Coordinating Efforts to Address the Sharp Increase in Migrants Seeking to Enter the United States through our Southern Border;
  • Ensuring Cybersecurity in an Age When Confidentiality, Integrity, and the Availability of Information Technology Are Essential to Mission Operations;
  • Ensuring Proper Financial Planning, Payments, and Internal Controls; and
  • Improving FEMA’s Disaster Response and Recovery Efforts.

DHS, DOD, and FEMA

Update on earlier posting.  The Diva mentioned this new RAND report two days ago, but had not yet read it. I want to call it to reader’s attention because it contains some significant findings.

From the Homeland Security Digital Library, this discussion of a new report from RAND. See: Disaster Response, FEMA, and the DoD; A Relationship in Progress. See this abstract from RAND.

Here is the direct link to the Rand Report: Improving DOD Support to FEMA’s All-Hazards Plans.(78 pages). The summary and the charts on pages 11-13 give you a quick idea of the inadequacies of FEMA’s efforts to date.

The Diva invites reader comments because she is out of her league on this topic.  Two colleagues will address this report today – Bill Cumming on Homeland Security Watch and Eric Holdeman in Disaster-Zone.

Effects on FEMA of a DHS Shutdown – Comments by Fugate

FEMA head outlines what exactly will happen if DHS shuts down

Updates: 

From the New Yorker: Threats to Homeland Security. Best quote I have seen lately:

You can’t spend decades encouraging irrationality and ignorance, then declare a return to sanity when it’s convenient. The price lasts longer than an election cycle.

CBS news had this account today: 5 things that will happen if Congress doesn’t fund Homeland Security

FEMA employees will mostly report for duty: Johnson said in the same CNN interview that “something like 80 percent” of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) “permanent appropriated workers” would stay home. That statement ignores the fact that many of the agency’s workers aren’t funded through the annual appropriations process, according to a Factcheck.org review. The 2013 DHS report found that that 78 percent of FEMA’s 14,729 employees would stay on the job if the agency went unfunded. Plus, more than one-third of FEMA’s disaster workforce comes from reservists, according to a Government Accountability Office report, and they aren’t reliant on annual funding from Congress

Here is the NYTimes’ version of the story: Holding DHS Hostage.

DHS Morale Still Low

See this article in the Washington Post today: Feds unhappy with leaders, new government survey finds. Of the 19 agencies rated, DHS was #19. Here are some excerpts:

Federal workers are increasingly dismayed by what they see as weak leadership across government, according to a survey released Tuesday that finds employees’ job satisfaction at its lowest point since Congress required the first workplace appraisal 11 years ago.

Despite continued positive feedback at some agencies and improving morale at others, just 56.9 percent of employees are happy with their jobs and would recommend their agencies as places to work, the annual “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government” rankings say.

For example, the Department of Homeland Security, the agency tasked with providing administrative relief and work permits to as many as 3.7 million undocumented parents and 300,000 children, ranked at the bottom of large agencies for a third year running, with employee satisfaction and commitment at 44 percent.

Trouble Looming: Congress Emboldened to Make Dumb Decisions

Last week I posted an article about the failures of our legislative and executive branches in Washington, D.C. Here are two more examples of possible congressional action, done in part as retribution for the President’s executive actions on immigration. One possible action is aimed at DHS and another at EPA.

(1) Homeland Security Head Implies His Current Budget Puts the Country at Risk. Some excerpts:

House Republicans, seeking to retaliate against President Obama’s controversial executive order protecting more than four million illegal immigrants from deportation, plan to keep the department responsible for implementing the order on a short budgetary leash through early next year.

GOP lawmakers revealed a strategy Tuesday to fund most of the government through next September – the end of the current fiscal year – but provide only a short-term funding extension, or a “continuing resolution,” for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The massive DHS oversees immigration and border security and will implement the president’s immigration action.

(2) Fossil-fuel lobbyists, bolstered by GOP wins, work to curb environmental rules. An excerpt:

The power of anti-EPA sentiment in Washington was evident last week when the incoming chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), a vocal denier of science showing a human role in climate change, sent a letter demanding that the EPA withdraw the new power-plant limits.