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.


DHS Morale Sinks Again – Oct. 13

From the WashPost today:  DHS morale sinks further despite new leadership at the top, survey shows.  Some key points:

While the survey shows that the vast majority of DHS employees are hard-working and dedicated to their mission to protect the homeland, many say the department discourages innovation, treats employees in an arbitrary fashion and fails to recruit skilled personnel. [emphasis added]

Over the past four years, employees have left DHS at a rate nearly twice as fast as for the federal government overall, according to a review of a federal database.

I find it really sad that the organizational home for emergency management at the national level is in a department that is so troubled.  So many dedicated and hard-working people want to be part of the EM field but the work environment is not efficient, effective, or supportive.

I try, and urge others to do so to, not to blame FEMA personnel for the organizational and structural disfunction of their employer.


Streamlining Oversight of the DHS

Once again the Washington Post has addressed some of the organizations concerns and the severe deficiencies of the Congressional oversight of  DHS.  See: Department of Homeland Security has 120 reasons to want streamlined oversight. From the lead in to the article:

The Department of Homeland Security is, by all accounts, not the easiest place to work. The pressure is high, the job is hard and morale in recent years has been about as low as it can get.

But perhaps the most universally frustrating part of working for DHS, according to numerous former and current officials, is the byzantine congressional oversight.

More than 90 committees and subcommittees have some jurisdiction over DHS, nearly three times the number that oversee the Defense Department. And that doesn’t count nearly 30 other congressional bodies such as task forces and commissions.

HIgh Turnover and Other Big Problems at DHS – 2 sides

From the front page of the Washington Post: Top-level turnover makes it harder for DHS to stay on top of evolving threats. Excerpts:

An exodus of top-level officials from the Department of Homeland Security is undercutting the agency’s ability to stay ahead of a range of emerging threats, including potential terrorist strikes and cyberattacks, according to interviews with current and former officials.

Over the past four years, employees have left DHS at a rate nearly twice as fast as in the federal government overall, and the trend is accelerating, according to a review of a federal database.

The departures are a result of what employees widely describe as a dysfunctional work environment, abysmal morale, and the lure of private security companies paying top dollar ….

NOTES: The Diva got this link from HLSWatch blog. The author of the posting, Christian Beckner, also has some comments of his own in another blog – that of the GWU Homeland Security Institute that are worth reading.

Interesting that FEMA is not mentioned at all in this article. But their executives must be stressed by the overall environment.

UPDATE ON SEPT. 23: Not a surprise that Sec. Johnson would have a reply to this article. Here is his rebuttal in today’s Washington Post.