Homeland Security Office: Issues and Options
Report for Congress
Homeland Security Office:
Issues and Options
May 20, 2002
Analyst in International Affairs
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Homeland Security Office: Issues and Options
President George W. Bush created the Office of Homeland Security (OHS)
within the Executive Office of the President after the September 11, 2001, terrorist
attacks as a federal focal point for coordinating domestic efforts against terrorism.
Former Governor Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania, a close friend and political ally of the
President, was appointed to head the OHS. Such a high-level unit, it was hoped,
could bring direction and coherence to federal homeland security-related activities
that were spread among more than 40 different departments and agencies. Yet OHS
has been controversial almost since its inception. Despite some high-profile results
such as highlighting priorities in the President’s FY2003 budget and negotiating a
border security accord with Canada, OHS remains very much an organizational work
in progress—one seeking to carve out a unique identity and mission. Critics have
focused on the Office’s informal structure and special relationship with the White
House, its lack of statutory authority, the essentially domestic focus of its activities,
its alleged duplication of coordination mechanisms already in place, and its inability
to exert direct control over federal programs and budgets. Proposals have been
introduced in Congress, in the Administration and in various think tanks for
reorganizing OHS, reshaping its mandate, or replacing it with an entirely new federal
agency. Whether the Office will continue to exist in its present form is by no means
assured; ultimately, its future character may well be influenced less by its ability to
coordinate the federal terrorism response than by its ability to create a new dialogue
on anti-terrorism coordination between federal authorities and their state and local
In troduction ......................................................1
Organizational Resources and Authority................................4
Organization and Staffing.......................................4
Mission and Responsibilities for Guiding National Security Policy Related
OHS and NSC................................................9
The Example of Drug Control Strategy............................10
How Broad a Mandate?........................................11
Strengths and Weaknesses of the OHS Concept.........................12
Plans and Mechanisms.........................................12
OHS’s Policy Proposals and Reactions............................14
In Search of a Unique Mission...................................15
Alternative Models for Managing the War on Terrorism..................18
Changing the Mandate.........................................20
Summary and Conclusion..........................................24
List of Tables
Table 1. Policy Coordination Committees...............................2
Homeland Security Office:
Issues and Options
On October 8, 2001, 28 days after the catastrophic attacks on the World Trade
Center and the Pentagon, President Bush issued Executive Order 13228 establishing
the Office of Homeland Security (OHS) and the Homeland Security Council (HSC),
chaired by the President.1 The OHS’s preeminent mission as defined in the order is
to develop a comprehensive national strategy to safeguard the United States against
terrorism. The White House has made clear that this strategy should extend from
federal agency coordination into the full range of homeland security activities across
federal, state and local jurisdictions. The Office’s designated functions are to
“coordinate the Executive Branch’s efforts to detect, prepare for, prevent, protect
against, respond to, and recover from terrorist attacks within the United States,” and
also to “work with” states and localities as well as private industry in accomplishing
these tasks. The simultaneously-created Homeland Security Council was described
as an interagency “mechanism” for coordinating and implementing homeland
security policies at the federal level.
A subsequent presidential directive (Homeland Security Presidential Directive-
1, hereafter HSPD-1) established a cabinet-level principals’ committee chaired by
the OHS Director (formally titled the Assistant to the President for Homeland
Security). The principals’ committee sits atop a hierarchy modeled on the National
Security Council system—a subcabinet deputies’ committee, and 11 policy
coordination committees (PCCs), each chaired by a senior director of OHS. The
latter entities, listed in Figure I, were defined as the “main day-to-day fora for2
interagency coordination of homeland security policy.” (See table 1.) The PCCs also
are enjoined to coordinate federal policy on homeland security with state and local
1 The White House, “Establishing the Office of Homeland Security.” Executive Order
13228. Federal Register, vol. 66, no. 196. October 8, 2001, pp. 51812-51816. HSC members
included the President, the Vice-President, the Secretaries of the Treasury, the Department
of Defense, Health and Human Services, and Transportation, the Attorney General, the
directors of the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the
Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Assistant to the President for Homeland
Security and “such other officers of the executive branch as the President may from time to
time designate.” For other CRS products on OHS/HSC, see CRS Report RL31148,
Homeland Security: The Presidential Coordination Office, by Harold C. Relyea; and, Office
of Homeland Security, in CRS Terrorism Briefing Book.
2 The White House, “Organization and Operation of the Homeland Security Council.”
Homeland Security Presidential Directive 1. As cited in Lee M. Zeichner, Critical
Infrastructure Assurance. LegalNetWorks, Inc. February 24, 2002, p. 27.
governments, although HSPD-1 offers little guidance on how this is to be
Table 1. Policy Coordination Committees
Detection, Surveillance, and IntelligenceIntelligence and Detection (Ken Piernick)
Law Enforcement and InvestigationIntelligence and Detection (Ken Piernick)
Plans, Training, and EvaluationPolicy and Plans (Richard Falkenrath)
Weapons of Mass DestructionResponse and Recovery (Michael Byrne)
Economic ConsequencesResponse and Recovery (Michael Byrne)
Domestic Threat Response and IncidentResponse and Recovery (Michael Byrne)
Managementor Intelligence and Detection (Ken
Key Asset, Border, Territorial Waters,Protection and Prevention (Bruce
and Airspace SecurityLawlor)
Domestic Transportation SecurityProtection and Prevention (Bruce
Medical and Public Health PreparednessProtection and Prevention (Bruce
Research and DevelopmentResearch and Development (Penrose
Public AffairsCommunications (Susan Neely)
Source: OHS Organization Chart.
The perceived need, basic blueprint and core justification for the new office had
emerged some time before the September 11 events. Various congressionally-
mandated panels and legislative initiatives had called attention to the growing
terrorist threat to the U.S. homeland. For example, the United States Commission
on National Security/21st Century (the Hart-Rudman Commission) predicted in
January 2001: “The combination of unconventional weapons proliferation with the
persistence of international terrorism will end the relative invulnerability of the U.S.
homeland to catastrophic attack. A direct attack on American citizens on American
soil is likely over the next quarter century.”3 A widely-shared view was that the
United States lacked an overarching strategic framework that could guide policy-
3 United States Commission on National Security/21st Century. Road Map for National
Security: Imperative for Change. Phase III Report Washington, D.C. January 31, 2001. p
making and resource allocation for counterterrorism efforts. For example, the
Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving
Weapons of Mass Destruction (the Gilmore Commission) asserted in December 2000
that “the United States has no coherent functional national strategy for combating
terrorism.” The U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) in September 2001 stressed
the need to “review and clarify the structures for overall leadership and coordination
of federal programs to combat terrorism.”4 The studies advanced various proposals
for reconfiguring the federal government’s decision-making processes vis a vis the
terrorist threat. The OHS-HSC framework reflected and incorporated the reformist
thrust of these proposals, at least with respect to domestic security policy. As if to
underscore the distinctive character of OHS in the policy process, the terms
“coordinate” and “coordination” or variants of them were repeated no less than 34
times in Executive Order 13228.
The OHS-HSC structure, though, seemed to be both more and less than what
advocates of reorganization had hoped. Some had envisioned a more powerful
organization—a homeland security agency—with direct-line administrative authority
to secure the nation’s borders and improve domestic preparedness. Others questioned
whether OHS could lead and oversee the vast range of homeland security
activities—reportedly spread across more than 40 federal agencies and an estimated
2,000 separate congressional appropriations accounts.5 Also controversial was the
scope of OHS responsibilities. Its mandate appeared to reach inward to coordinate
“across a broad spectrum of federal, state, and local agencies,” but various
proponents of reorganization favored reaching outward as well, so as to integrate
foreign and domestic counterterrorism into a single strategic plan.6 Still other
observers saw OHS as adding little to planning and coordination mechanisms that
already existed within the federal government (including those mandated by
These various concerns carry a number of implications for the definition and
organization of OHS functions. They can be grouped into four major issue areas.
These areas are expected to receive careful consideration by Congress and the
Administration in the months ahead.
4 Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving
Weapons of Mass Destruction. Toward a National Strategy for Combating Terrorism.
Arlington, VA, RAND, December 2002. GAO, Combatting Terrorism: Selected
Challenges and Related Recommendations. GAO-01.S22. Washington, D.C. September
2001. p. 7. Priorities in the war on terrorism could change dramatically, given the evolving
nature of the threat, thereby requiring a corresponding redefinition of the role of the OHS.
Different strands of thought on OHS’s present organizational mandate and its possible future
will be discussed in this report.
5 Author interview, OHS. Washington, D.C. March 5, 2002 (hereafter March OHS
interview); Speech by OHS official to Monterey Institute of International Studies.
Washington, D.C. April 10, 2002.
6 Toward a National Strategy for Combating Terrorism., p. 4.
!Does OHS have adequate organizational resources and authority to
coordinate the homeland security activities of the federal
!How is “national security” understood? What is OHS’s nexus to it?
Are OHS’s mission and responsibilities conceived broadly enough
to guide national policy-making on combating terrorism?
!What “value-added” does OHS generate in coordinating homeland
security and in what areas might OHS make a unique contribution?
!What alternative models or organizational refinements for managing
the war on terrorism might be considered and what advantages or
disadvantages do they offer?
Organizational Resources and Authority
Organization and Staffing
Concerns over the effectiveness, authority and performance of OHS and its
director, Governor Tom Ridge, are widespread in Congress as insistent demands for
Ridge’s testimony in public hearings attest. Yet evaluation is difficult because OHS
is very much an organization in flux. As of March-April 2002, only 90 of a projected
180 full-time personnel slots had been filled. Most were detailees from other
agencies rather than direct hires. Some of the 11 aforementioned policy coordination
committees had not yet convened; others were in the process of formation.7 Also
noteworthy is the prevalence of dual allegiance; for instance, the Senior Directors for
Intelligence and Detection and for R&D report to superiors in, respectively, the NSC
and the Office of Science and Technology Policy as well as in OHS.7 Partly because
of staffing problems, the centerpiece of the OHS mission statement, a comprehensive
national strategy for homeland security, has not yet materialized. It is not projected
for completion until June 2002, nine months after the September 11 tragedy. (At that
time, the document would be sent to the President; when it would be disseminated
to the public is not clear.) OHS and the Administration have produced a budget
calling for $37.7 billion in homeland security spending in FY 2003, but as its
architects admit, the budget did not attempt to address “the totality of the homeland
security agenda” and did not equate to a national strategy. Rather, it focused on
disparate policy initiatives–such as bioterrorism and border security– that “were
deemed so imperative and urgent that they required immediate attention.”8
7 March OHS interview.
8 President George W. Bush, “Securing the Homeland, Strengthening the Nation.”
Washington, D.C. February 2002, p. 8. For discussion see Larry Nowels. Homeland
Security FY2003 and FY2002 Supplemental Budget Requests CRS Terrorism Briefing Book
May 2, 2002, pp. 1-4.
The fact that OHS is not yet fully staffed and operational might account for its
reluctance to be responsive, especially vis a vis the legislative branch. Its FY2003
budget is not an integrated budget item, unlike other Executive Office of the
President (EOP) entities (such as the NSC, the Office of Science and Technology
Policy, and the “Drug Czar’s” office). Rather, OHS is aggregated with funding for
other White House functions such as physical and information technology security
in the EOP and compensation of the President and the White House office.9 Gaining
appointments with OHS officials has been difficult for congressional staff. Recent
testimony by the Comptroller General of the United States notes, “I must say that we
have experienced some access problems in connection with our OHS-related efforts.”
(The reference here is to the General Accounting Office’s response to a congressional
request to conduct audits and reviews in the area of homeland security.)10 Also
significant in the eyes of Congress is OHS Director Tom Ridge’s refusal to testify
before congressional committees about public spending on homeland protection. The
White House has invoked the separation of powers doctrine as a reason and also has
“contended that The President, rather than Congress, oversees a presidential adviser
who is not confirmed by the Senate.” Also, White House aides do not regularly
testify before Congress, although they have done so some 20 times since 1944,
according to a recent analysis.11 Nevertheless, given OHS’s relatively high profile,
the Administration’s position has been challenged by Congress. Senator Robert
Byrd, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Senator Ted Stevens,
the ranking Republican member of the committee have asked for Ridge’s testimony.
Byrd sees Ridge as having a unique responsibility to “integrate the many complex
functions of the various federal agencies” involved in formulating homeland security
policy.12 In a 1,300-word letter to Ridge in April 2002, Senator Byrd wrote,
The decisions which you make as Director of the Office of Homeland Security
undoubtedly will play a large role in thousands of funding decisions in the
coming years. ... There is simply no rational reason for avoiding the committee
which has to review and recommend expenditures from the U.S. Treasury to the13
full Senate and the American people.
9 A press service reports the FY2002 budget for OHS as $25 million. See Brigitte Blair and
Gail Kaufman, “New Office Must Define Role, Threats to Homeland.” Federal Times.
October 29, 2001, p. 1.
10 David M. Walker. Homeland Security: Responsibility and Accountability for Achieving
National Goals. U.S. General Accounting Office: GAO-02-G27T. Washington, D.C. April
11 CRS Report RL31351, Presidential Advisees’ Testimony before Congress: A Brief
Overview, by Harold Relyea and Jay R. Shampansky.
12 Jules Witcover, “Bush Asks for Trouble by Snubbing Senators.” The Baltimore Sun.
March 6, 2002 [http://www.sunspot.net].
13 Scott Laidlaw, “Sen. Byrd Rejects Ridge Offer on Briefing.” The Philadelphia Inquirer.
April 5, 2002, p. A4. In a hearing on April 30, Senator Byrd posed the question: “Why can
this administration not unbend its arrogant position that it took in the very beginning when
Senator Stevens and I asked Mr. Ridge to appear?” See Federal News Service “Homeland
Security Spending” Panel One of a Hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee. April
A related question is whether OHS, in its present organizational makeup, can
muster the necessary personnel and clout to reconcile the “complex” functions of
agencies involved in homeland protection. To many observers, the current staff size
of 90 seems small relative to the Herculean task of determining how funds currently
are being spent in a multitude of agencies and setting new homeland security
requirements and priorities: others argue that size need not correlate with
effectiveness. An additional concern is the large percentage of detailees on the OHS
staff. By comparison, only about one-fifth of the approximately 145 employees of
the Office of National Drug Control Policy, often seen as an organizational
counterpart for the OHS, were assigned from other agencies. The danger may exist
that these assignees, who are paid by and responsible to their parent organizations,
would pull for their organizations’ own priorities, funding, and programs, possibly
compromising OHS’s leadership and oversight functions in coordinating federal
agency activities. It can be argued that OHS will need to both create more staff slots
and increase the relative weight of staff employees in the organizational mix.
OHS’s formal authority over programs and budgets, established by executive
order rather than by statute, is relatively circumscribed. The order states that the
Director shall “review and provide advice to the heads of departments and agencies”
for homeland security-related programs; advise the Office of Management and
Budget (OMB) on the “level of funding” for such programs; and, before OMB
forwards the prepared annual budget to the president for transmittal to Congress,
certify to OMB funding levels deemed “necessary for homeland security-related and
appropriate activities of the executive branch.” The order established no criteria or
set of procedures for not certifying an agency’s homeland security budget. Also, the
wording of the order implies that certification occurs late in the budget cycle — after
OMB has vetted agencies’ budget submissions and passed them back in interim or
final form — suggesting that this step may be little more than a formality.
A comparison can be drawn with the budgetary authority of the Office of
National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), an EOP entity often mentioned as a possible
model for coordination of federal anti-terrorist activities. ONDCP’s authority is based
in statute (112 Statute, Sec. 704) and is fairly explicit.14 ONDCP, for instance, can
transfer funds between agencies, subject to the approval of the head of each affected
agency, and must approve any requests for reprogramming of funds of more than $5
million. A key difference with OHS lies in the review and certification of agencies’
drug control budgets. ONDCP immerses itself in the process early on, reviewing
agencies’ total budget requests in early summer and issuing so-called
“precertification letters” specifying changes that should be made. Final certification
or decertification decisions are made in the fall. In the event of decertification, the
affected department or agency is required to include the funding levels recommended
by ONDCP in the budget request that it submits to OMB. Also, the ONDCP Director
must notify Congress of the decision and the supporting reasons for it.
14 P.L. 105-277. October 21, 1998 (112 Stat. 2681) Title VII. Office of National Drug
Control Policy Reauthorization. For discussion, see GAO, Drug Control: ONDCP Efforts
to Manage the National Drug Control Budget. GAO/GGD-99-80. May 1999, pp. 1-13.
The significance of the decertification tool, though, has been questioned, since
real budgetary power resides with OMB and the President and ultimately with
Congress. There has been only a single recorded case of decertification. This
suggests that bureaucratic and political pressures on ONDCP and the respective
agencies to reach accommodation in the “precertification” phase are considerable.
The sole case involved a 1997 dispute between ONDCP and the Department of
Defense (DOD) over funding levels for certain drug program initiatives. Specifically,
ONDCP wanted an increase of $141 million in DOD’s drug budget, which DOD
resisted as an encroachment on its war-fighting functions. ONDCP appealed to OMB
and the president, and the result was a negotiated compromise in which DOD agreed
to spend an additional $73 million on drug-related activities in FY1999. 15
A divergence of opinion exists on whether OHS, like ONDCP, should have a
statutory foundation and whether its Director should be subject to confirmation by
the Senate. Proponents see a statute and a confirmation procedure as conferring
legitimacy on the Office and strengthening its role in the budget process. Also,
increased congressional oversight is considered by some as desirable in its own right,
given the significance of OHS’s duties. Others interviewed for this report, including
OHS staffers, are skeptical of the need for a statute, citing informal levers of power
as the key to performance of the Office’s functions.16 According to the latter
viewpoint, the biggest lever is OHS Director Ridge’s proximity to the President,
which confers extraordinary influence. As Ridge noted in a speech to the National
Press Club in February, “Some of my friends in Congress think it’s very important
for this office to be a legislative office. ... I’ve been in town four months now and
I’ve had at least $38 billion worth of budget authority in four months; that’s not so
On the other hand, presidential access might not transfer so easily from the
incumbent director to a successor, a possible argument for institutionalizing OHS
through legislation. Furthermore, Ridge’s authority in Washington may be gradually
undermined, unless protected by legislation. A number of commentators argue that
Ridge is losing out in various turf disputes with the Justice Department, the
Pentagon, and other agencies of the government.18 A recent Brookings Institution
15 Bradley Graham, “Drug Control Chief Won’t Let Pentagon Just Say No.” The Washington
Post. November 24, 1997; GAO, Drug Control, p. 2.
16 Author interview, OHS. January 8, 2002; OHS March interview.
17 “National Press Club Luncheon Remarks by Tom Ridge, Director of Homeland Security.”
Federal News Service. February 7, 2002.
18 Oft-cited examples are the Pentagon’s failure to consult with Ridge’s office on a plan,
announced in March 2002 to suspend around-the-clock flight patrols in New York City; the
evident defeat of Ridges’s December 2001 border security initiative; and the Attorney
General’s assumption of lead authority to issue terrorist threat warnings. See “Big Visions
for Security Post Shrink Amid Political Drama,” New York Times, May 3, 2002. p. A1 and
Adriel Bettelheim “Turf Wars Take Toll on Ridge” CQ Weekly April 27, 2002 pp. 1071-
study concludes that “statutory authority may be the best, if not the only, way for
Ridge to gain the stature he needs to get the job done.”19
Mission and Responsibilities for Guiding National
Security Policy Related to Terrorism
No formal government-wide definition of homeland security has emerged since
the creation of the OHS-HSC structure.20 Nevertheless, generalizations can be made
about what OHS planning and coordination responsibilities do and do not cover.
First, OHS’s purview mostly excludes nonterrorist threats to the security of
Americans at home. For instance, OHS is not involved in coordinating drug
interdiction efforts, defending against ballistic missiles, or managing the
consequences of natural disasters. Furthermore, as Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld has pointed out in testimony, OHS also will not exercise oversight
authority vis a vis DOD’s new Northern Command for homeland defense or over its
military missions “to defend the people and territory of the United States,”such as
combat air patrols, maritime defense, or even cases of terrorist threats of attacks.21
Second, while OHS is assigned a major role in protection of “critical
infrastructure”— telecommunications, energy, transportation links, and the like —
its role in cybersecurity is limited. Executive Order 13231 of October 10, 2001,
established a “Critical Infrastructure Protection Board” (CIPB) which is to
“recommend policies and coordinate programs for protecting information systems for
critical infrastructure.” Seemingly this meant that OHS would oversee protection for
physical assets while the Board would be responsible for their information22
Third, OHS’s focus is on terrorist threats on the territory of the United States.
OHS’s prevention function, for example, is defined narrowly in terms of border
control rather than broadly in terms of international initiatives against terrorism. As
one observer has remarked, the Bush Administration’s initial response to terrorism
19 Michael E. O’Hanlon, et al., Protecting the American Homeland: A Preliminary analysis.
20 The Office of Management and Budget, though, has its own definition of “combating
terrorism,” which includes the following four elements: law enforcement and investigation
activities; preparing for and responding to terrorist acts; physical security of government
facilities and employees and physical protection of national populace and infrastructure; and
research and development. See George W. Bush, “Securing the Homeland, Strengthening
the Nation.” February 2002, p. 27. Brookings Institution Press, 2002. p. 116.
21 Statement in Hearing on Homeland Security in the FY2002 Supplemental. Federal News
Service. May 7, 2002. pp. 5-6.
22 The White House, “Critical Infrastructure Protection in the Information Age.” Executive
Order 11321. Federal Register, vol. 66, no. 202. October 16, 2001, pp. 53063-53071.
“seems based on a mission of homeland security seen largely through the prism of
civil defense.”23 However, this leaves unresolved the important and potentially
contentious issue of how much attention and resources should be focused on
domestic security efforts and how much on operations against terrorist networks
abroad that directly threaten the U.S. homeland.
OHS and NSC
Efforts to delineate OHS’s sphere of responsibility run some risk of
oversimplification. The OHS, the CIPB, and the NSC have distinct responsibilities
in the area of counterterrorism, but the functions and memberships of these
organizations partly overlap and lines of authority are intertwined. For example, the
President’s advisor for cybersecurity, Richard Clarke, reports to both NSC Advisor
Condoleezza Rice and to Governor Ridge. The NSC’s National Director and Deputy
National Security Advisor for Controlling Terrorism, who is the President’s principal
advisor on combating global terrorism, also reports to both Ridge and Rice. OHS’s
linkages with the NSC are especially complex. For instance, some OHS officials
(such as the Senior Director for Intelligence and Detection) hold dual appointments
in the OHS and the NSC. OHS and the NSC share responsibility for coordinating
border security functions and for setting “priorities for the collection of intelligence
outside the United States regarding threats of terrorism within the United States.”
OHS and the NSC have issued joint classified reports on the “smart and secure”
border system with Canada and on global transportation security.24
Nevertheless, OHS and NSC operate in distinct spheres. The executive order
creating OHS specified that the Homeland Security Council would be responsible for
administering policy for national security emergency preparedness “with respect to
terrorist threats and attacks within the United States” and that it would be the
“principal forum for consideration of policy” related to such threats and attacks. This
amends Executive Order 12656 of November 18, 1988 which had assigned such
responsibilities to the NSC “for any occurrence, including natural disasters, military
attack, technological emergency that seriously threatens the national security of the
A number of observers view OHS’s creation as reinforcing traditional barriers
between foreign and domestic counterterrorism policy: “The nature of the terrorist
threat gives rise to operational imperatives that are now at cross purposes with the
organizational incentive [for OHS],” writes a 2002 RAND Corp. study.26 Earlier
studies had emphasized that foreign and domestic security planning against terrorism
should be combined in a single integrated whole, because the international mobility
23 Stephen Flynn, “America the Vulnerable.” Foreign Affairs. January-February 2002, p.75.
24 March OHS interview.
25 The White House, “Assignment of Emergency Preparedness Responsibilities.” Executive
Order 12656. November 18, 1988, secs. 101-104.
26 “Organizing for Homeland Security.” Santa Monica, Calif: RAND Corp. Issue Paper IP-
and connectedness of terrorist organizations required such an approach. As the
Gilmore Commission noted in 2000:
The national strategy should be geographically and functionally comprehensive.
It should address both international and domestic terrorism. The distinction
between terrorism outside the borders of the United States and domestic terrorist
threats is eroding. International terrorism crosses borders easily and may directly
affect the American homeland. ... To be functionally comprehensive, the national
strategy should address the full spectrum of the nation’s threats against terrorism:
intelligence, deterrence, prevention, preemption, crisis management, and27
What emerged in the wake of the September 11 attacks, however, was a
bifurcated approach to overall coordination. OHS would coordinate responses to
domestic terrorist threats, and the NSC would do the same for global terrorism.
Some experts viewed this dichotomy as unfortunate. “Intelligence, law enforcement,
and military operations at home and abroad need more integration, not less,” said the
aforementioned RAND study. A U.S. Coast Guard expert, an advocate of “point of
origin” border controls, argues that “reducing the risk and consequences of attacks
directed against the United States cannot be accomplished simply by tweaking the
role and capabilities whose writ reaches only to the nation’s shores.”28
The Example of Drug Control Strategy
An analogy can be drawn between international terrorism and the international
drug trade, which also crosses borders. The ONDCP’s National Drug Control
Strategy comprises both foreign and domestic elements, ranging from eradication of
coca bushes in Colombia to prosecuting street dealers in the United States. While the
strategy has not succeeded in the sense of reducing availability and consumption of
drugs in the U.S. market, a strategic planning process that views the drug trade as a
borderless phenomenon seems applicable to the war on terrorism as well.
Similarly, the seamless quality of the terrorist threat is forcing U.S. government
agencies to redefine their concepts of border security. The U.S. Customs Chief,
Robert Bonner, for example, advocates “pushing the border outward” to allow U.S.
inspections of travelers and goods in overseas ports, which in turn could give
officials more time to detect and react to possible terrorist attacks. (Bonner
emphasizes that “international terrorists such as al Qaeda could smuggle some sort
of nuclear device in one of the more than 50,000 containers that arrive in the United
States each day.”)29 Under Governor Ridge’s “smart and secure” border plan with
27 “Toward a National Strategy for Combating Terrorism,” p. 4.
28 “America the Vulnerable,” op. cit. p. 75.
29 Robert Bonner, “Pushing the Border Outward.” U.S. Customs Today. January 2002, p. 1;
Robert Bonner, “Pushing Borders Outward: Rethinking Customs Border Enforcement.”
Speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Federal News Service. January
Canada, U.S. Customs officers will be stationed in Halifax, Montreal, and Vancouver
(and Canadian officials on the U.S. side of the border). Bilateral discussions with
Mexico may result in similar arrangements with that country. Additionally,
Customs’s concept of an expanded U.S. frontier against terrorism extends to far-away
places such as Hong Kong, Rotterdam, and Singapore.
How Broad a Mandate?
These various observations have implications for how broadly OHS’s role and
mission should be defined. Should a National Strategy establish performance
measures, say, for global pursuit of al Qaeda cells or nonproliferation programs in
Russia as well as for critical infrastructure protection and training of first responders
at home? Should a single organization be responsible for coordinating and
integrating all these activities? Or would such a mandate be impossibly broad, or at
least exceedingly difficult to fulfill? And do OHS’s multiple ties to the NSC
(augmented by liaison relations to parts of the foreign affairs bureaucracy, as well as
by the HSC committee mechanism) ensure an adequate degree of connectedness to
the international terrorism scene?
The questions have significant policy implications. Much of the federal effort
to combat terrorism, as the General Accounting Office has noted, has “been based
on vulnerabilities, rather than on analysis of credible threats.”30 Separating homeland
security and national security functions seems likely to reinforce this tendency.
Indeed, the preface to the Administration’s FY2003 budget document “Securing the
Homeland, Strengthening the Nation” states that “the need for homeland security ...
is not tied to any specific terrorist threat. Instead, the need for homeland security is
tied to the underlying vulnerability and the fact that we can never be sure when or
where the next terrorist conspiracy against us will emerge.”31
The converse argument is that American society’s vulnerabilities are essentially
infinite and that threat assessment is needed to guide strategy and justify resource
investments. Otherwise, says GAO, federal agencies will use improbable “worst-
case scenarios” to plan and develop programs. Such assessments of necessity would
derive from thorough analysis of the terrorist actors themselves, including their
intentions and capability to launch attacks. This argument would support a more
expansive definition of OHS’s mandate, perhaps to include a role in coordinating and
evaluating intelligence activities related to foreign-origin terrorist threats.
30 GAO, Combating Terrorism: Linking Threats to Strategies and Resources. GAO/T-
NSIAD-00-218. July 26, 2000, p. 2.
31 President George W. Bush, “Securing the Homeland, Strengthening the Nation,” pp. 2-3.
Strengths and Weaknesses of the OHS Concept
Plans and Mechanisms
Creation of OHS raised the questions of possible redundancy or duplication with
other interagency coordinating mechanisms and plans that predate the September 11
events or that were put in place after the attacks. A substantial collaboration effort,
for example, was the Attorney General’s Five Year Counterterrorism and Technology
Crime Plan, published in 1998 with annual updates. The plan identifies several high-
level goals aimed at preventing and deterring terrorism, including improving
domestic event and consequence planning and management, facilitating international
cooperation, strengthening state and local capabilities, safeguarding information
infrastructure, and leading R&D efforts to advance counterterrorism capabilities.
According to a September 2001 GAO report, the plan could serve with some
modifications as the nucleus of a national strategy against terrorism.32 Another
preexisting plan, the Interagency Domestic Terrorism Concept of Operations Plan
(CONPLAN), “outlines an organized and unified capability for a timely, coordinated
response by federal agencies to a terrorist threat or act,” especially one involving
Weapons of Mass Destruction.33 CONPLAN, issued in January 2001 and signed by
seven agency heads, was intended to be seen as a link between the investigative-
enforcement functions of crisis management and the damage control ones of
Furthermore, analysts have noted an apparent overlap exists between OHS
domestic preparedness and consequence management functions and those of the
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), notably FEMA’s Office of
National Preparedness (ONP), created in a “Statement by the President” of May 8,
2001. According to the Statement, ONP was to coordinate all federal programs for
WMD consequence management and also to “work closely with state and local
governments to ensure their planning, training and equipment needs are addressed.”
Recent congressional testimony by ONP’s Director Bruce Baughman states that “the
President’s decision to create ONP was a vital solution for a problem long recognized
but not previously solved—the need for coordination among the myriad of federal
programs dealing with terrorism preparedness.” At the same time, the executive
order setting up OHS states that the Office “shall coordinate national efforts to
prepare for and mitigate the consequences of terrorist threats and attacks,” and “to
32 GAO, Combating Terrorism: Selected Challenges and Related Recommendations. GAO-
33 Keith Bea, Coordinating Government Resources for Recovery, CRS Terrorism Briefing
Book March 18. 2002, .pp.1-2. United States Government Interagency Domestic Terrorism
Concept of Operations Plan January 2001, p.1
[http://www.fbi.gov.publications/conplan/conplan.pdf] The signatory agencies or
departments were Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services , Justice, The FBI, FEMA,
and the Environmental Protection Agency.
respond to and promote recovery from such incidents” 34 Some duplication of
authorities between OHS and ONP thus appears to exist, although OHS as the
architect of a broad national strategy for homeland security can be viewed as a
consumer of information supplied by ONP rather than as a competitor.35
Similarly, OHS, in the words of its Director, aims to “tear down the information
stovepipes that stand in the way of information sharing within the federal
government.”36 Yet data sharing in such areas as border security and foreign-origin
terrorist threats is fairly well advanced. A case in point is the Interagency Border
Inspection System (IBIS), a database used by both U.S. Customs and the Immigration
and Naturalization Service (INS), which also interfaces with the State Department’s
Consular and Support System (CLASS).37 Sharing of intelligence of terrorist threats
beyond U.S. borders occurs via the Counterterrorism Community Threat Warning
System based in the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center (CTC). The latter distributes
warnings, assessments, and advisories on a regular basis through a classified channel
to intelligence components of more than 45 federal agencies. The CIA and the FBI,
often viewed as organizational rivals, interact closely on terrorism intelligence
matters, although recent revelations regarding advance indications of the September
11 attacks dramatize the need for improvement.38 For example, a CIA official heads
the CTC but the deputy head is from the FBI. Within the FBI’s in-house Strategic
Information Operations Center (SIOC), where terrorist threats are analyzed and
responses coordinated, the SIOC’s FBI head has a CIA deputy.
Also, important improvements have occurred since September 11 independently
of the activities of Ridge’s office. The USA PATRIOT Act of October 26, 2001
(P.L. 107-56), mandated increased sharing of information between law enforcement
and intelligence communities. For example, intelligence obtained in a criminal
investigation or grand jury testimonies now can be shared with the CIA. Also, the
Act stipulated that the FBI’s national Crime Information Center begin supplying
criminal history records on visa applicants to the State Department’s CLASS system
34 Statement by Bruce Baughman before the Armed Services Military Procurement
Subcommittee, U.S. House of Representatives. March 5, 2002, p. 2; “Establishing the OHS,”
p. 3. The White House, Statement of the President. “On Domestic Preparedness against
Weapons of Mass Destruction” May 8, 2001.
35 CRS Report RL31285, FEMA’s Mission: Policy Directive for the Federal Emergency
Management Agency, by Keith Bea.
36 “National Press Club Luncheon Remarks by Tom Ridge, Director of the Office of
Homeland Security.” Federal News Service. February 7, 2002, p. 6.
37 Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept
and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 (USA PATRIOT Act). R.R. 107-56 (115 Stat. 275),
secs. 203, 403.
38 See for example David Johnston and James Risen: “ Series of Warnings: Foreboding
Increased but No Single Agency Had All the Clues.” The New York Times May 17, 2002 pp.
A1 and A20
and to the INS to advance federal counterterrorism cooperation.39 And in an
independent initiative, the CIA has contributed the names of 26,000 suspected
terrorists in its files to the FBI and the INS.40 Also, a Bush Administration
Presidential Directive (HSPD-2) of October 29, 2001, created an important new
interagency coordination mechanism: the Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force,
designed to ensure that federal agencies “coordinate programs” to keep aliens that
engage in or support terrorist activity out of the United States or to deport such aliens
that already are in the country.41 The new task force would be staffed by expert
personnel from State, the INS, the FBI, Customs, and other agencies. Its Director
would report to the Deputy Attorney General. Significantly, the OHS would not
control the new task force, although the latter’s Director would serve as agency
advisor to the OHS.
OHS’s Policy Proposals and Reactions
Other commentary alternately depicts the OHS’s policy proposals to date as
either lacking in novelty or overly ambitious. Federal agencies, for example, take
credit for the “smart and secure” border plan with Canada, which is designed to
facilitate cross-border communication while improving screening for passengers and
goods in transit. “Well before the Ridge-Manley accord, we had started meeting with
our Canadian counterpart to significantly improve security against the terrorist
threat,” said Robert Bonner, Commissioner of Customs. Similarly, INS head James
Ziglar claimed that “everything in the Ridge-Manley document was already on the
table and close to having something done about it.”42
Similar comments have come in response to one of Governor Ridge’s other
priorities — the creation of the Homeland Security Advisory System. Yet the
System, unveiled with great fanfare in mid-March 2002 after “months of planning,”
was modeled closely on and functionally similar to one already in use in the Defense
Department and the intelligence community.43 Meanwhile the FBI continues to issue
its own specific threat warnings, albeit with concurrence of other government
agencies and the OHS. A recent example was a statement of April 19, 2002 that
“unspecified terrorists are considering physical attacks against U.S. financial
39 See for example CRS Report RL31019, Terrorism: Automated Lookout Systems and
Border Security Options and Issues, by William Krouse.
40 Author interview, intelligence community source. Washington, D.C. area. March 8, 2002.
41 The White House, “Combating Terrorism Through Immigration Policies.” HSPD-2.
October 29, 2001, cited in Zeichner, Critical Infrastructure Assurance, pp. 26-30.
42 Joel Brinkley and Philip Shenon, “A Nation Challenged: Domestic Defense.” The New
York Times. Feb. 7, 2002, p. 16.
43 Bill Miller, “National Alert System Defines Five Shades of Terrorist Threat.” The New
York Times. March 13, 2002, p. A15; Report of the Interagency Commission on Crime and
Security in U.S. Seaports. Washington, D.C. Fall 2000, p. 152. The Homeland Security
Advisory System uses colors, green, blue, yellow, orange and red, to denote ascending
threat levels; DOD uses five categories–normal, Alpha, Bravo, Charlie and Delta.
institutions in the Northeast, particularly banks, as part of their campaign against U.S.
A “border security white paper,” prepared by Ridge’s office in December 2001,
generated considerable controversy. The paper reportedly proposed consolidating the
Coast Guard, Customs, the INS’s border enforcement function, and the Agriculture
Department’s quarantine inspection program into an independent federal border
administration. The plan was said to have been developed behind closed doors by the
OHS staff rather than being circulated through the HSC’s policy coordination
process. Strong opposition reportedly came from a range of agencies, among them
the Departments of State, Treasury, Agriculture, Justice, and Defense. 45 In April
2002, in what was described as a “significant retreat” for Governor Ridge, the
President’s domestic defense advisors recommended a far more modest merger—to
combine Customs and units of INS into a new border control entity under the aegis
of the Justice Department.46
In Search of a Unique Mission
The preceding examples illustrate the challenges faced by OHS and Governor
Ridge in carving out a unique mission for the Office. Whether OHS will become a
“coordinator of coordinators”, a purely consultative body, or something entirely
different, remains to be seen.47 Yet many analysts believe that OHS’s organizational
distinctiveness and potential value-added can best be conceived in broadly national,
rather than exclusively federal government terms. Part of OHS’s charter, as defined
in the executive order, is to “encourage and invite the participation of state and local
governments and private entities as appropriate in carrying out the Office’s
functions.”48 In fact, a considerable portion of OHS’s staff activities consists of
communicating with and building bridges to non-federal agencies. Governor Ridge
emphasizes that creation of the FY2003 budget was a broad consultation process that
involved state and local leaders and chiefs of police as well as heads of departments
and agencies. The proposed $3.5 billion federal allocation to state and local
emergency first responders, a more than tenfold increase over the FY2002 base level,
reportedly reflects this effort.
Also, Governor Ridge states that the forthcoming national strategy will “envelop
every level of government, every enterprise” in organizing a defense against terrorist
44 The Associated Press. “FBI Warning of Possible Attacks against Banks in Northeast.”
April 19, 2002.
45 “Several Agencies to Create One That Protects Borders.” The New York Times. January
46 David Sanger and Eric Schmitt, “Bush Leans Toward New Agency to Control Who and
What Enters.” The New York Times. March 20, 2002.
47 Ronald Moe, Office of Homeland Security. CRS Terrorism Briefing Book. November 1,
48 Executive Order 13228, op. cit.
attacks.49 OHS maintains an ongoing dialogue with state and local agencies on a host
of concerns regarding different attack scenarios. Critical issues in this dialogue are
cost-sharing for new homeland security initiatives (who pays for what?), insurance
and reinsurance in the event of mass casualty attacks, and dissemination of threat
information.50 In grappling with these novel and complex challenges, OHS may be
able to project a stronger image of its organizational awareness and establish a more
secure bureaucratic footing than it has had to date.
A particularly significant and contentious issue concerns information sharing
between different levels of government. Horizontal intelligence sharing at the federal
level is reasonably well-developed, and cross-agency linkages and databases
reportedly have improved since the September 11 catastrophe. One fairly successful
paradigm, referred to above, is the operations of the Community Counterterrorism
Board with respect to foreign-origin terrorist threats. Furthermore, the FBI maintains
its own national threat warning system (NTWS), which disseminates threat
information to approximately 21 federal agencies. The NTWS also provides
information in abbreviated and sanitized form to state and local law enforcement
agencies nationwide through an unclassified channel — the National Law
Enforcement Telecommunications System.51
Yet vertical sharing between federal and state and local agencies, by and large,
is limited. State and local agencies make the point that to function as “partners” in
homeland security, they will need a steady and accurate flow of intelligence about
terrorist threats. Threat information assembled by government agencies often is
classified for reasons of national security and few people in the state and local target
audience possess the required security clearance to receive it. Threat information
must be declassified and repackaged to protect the sources of the information and
methods of collecting it. At the same time, sanitized threat warnings standing alone
may lack sufficient detail, texture, and credibility to prompt action by state or local
authorities, especially economically—or politically—disruptive steps like closing
major bridges or power plants or evacuating parts of a city.52 As Governor Frank
Keating of Oklahoma stated in recent congressional testimony.
I faced a situation last fall that was almost laughable, if it hadn’t been for the
seriousness of the times. My state adjutant general received a terrorist warning,
but he couldn’t brief me, the man who appointed him, or my Commissioner of
Public Safety, a retired FBI special agent in charge, because we lacked the proper
49 Tom Ridge, “National Press Club Luncheon Remarks.” Federal News Service. February
7, 2002, p. 3; “Securing the Homeland, Strengthening the Nation,” p. 30.Congress is
contemplating legislation on the complex question of terrorism insurance. See S. Roy
Woodall. Jr. Terrorism Insurance– Comparison of H.R. 3210 and the Senate Compromise
CRS Report for Congress RS21211 May 1, 2002 pp.1-4.
50 Henry Hinton, Homeland Security Progress Made; More Direction and Partnerships
Sought. GAO. GAO-02-490T. Washington, D.C. March 12, 2002, p. 11.
51 Report on Crime and Security in U.S. Seaports, pp. 150-154.
security clearances. It does little good to tell state officials that something bad53
might happen and refuse to tell them what, where, or when.
The problem of information sharing across agency and jurisdictional lines is
partly technical in nature. It requires integrating different knowledge bases on
various hardware and software platforms to create, in the words of one expert, a
“consistent information technology architecture.” As the President’s 2003 budget
proposal, “Securing the Homeland, Strengthening the Nation,” states, “Having the
right system of communication — content, process, and infrastructure — is critical
to bridging existing gaps between federal, state, and local governments as well as the
private sector.” Ultimately, though, questions of information sharing — who gets
what, how much, when, and under what circumstances — require complex political
choices, especially when attempting to bridge the federal/non-federal divide.
Many observers appear to favor more empowerment and access, at least for state
authorities, though proposals for doing this vary widely. For example, U.S.
intelligence specialists interviewed for this report recommended setting up secure
communications facilities in state capitals configured to receive top-secret threat
assessments and warnings from intelligence community components. In this scenario,
such centers would be staffed by retired CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency, or other
government personnel with the requisite high-level security clearances. At the same
time, the elected top officials of the states, including the Governors, Lieutenant
Governors, and the states’ Attorneys General, would receive clearances ex-54
officio—that is, by virtue of their elevated political positions. Other proposals
would go further to democratize the flow of information. Bills introduced in the
House and Senate (H.R. 3285 and S. 1615) would permit sharing of foreign
intelligence information with senior law enforcement officials (“of a state or political
subdivision of a state”) subject to whatever guidelines the Attorney General might
use to protect confidentiality.55
The OHS tendency to date has been to view information sharing for homeland
security less in terms of expanding the circle of potential customers (that is,
“politically”) than in terms of modernizing technology and infrastructure. (Thest
section of the President’s budget proposal on “Using 21 Century Technology to
Defend the Homeland,” reflects this tendency.)56 In that context, OHS’s principal
achievement in meeting state and local demands for more access to threat information
has been the aforementioned national alert system with its five color codes. That
system, though — while described as a step in the right direction by some — provides
only general guidance as to what communities are supposed to do as risks escalate.
(The entire United States, for example, is currently designated as in yellow alert mode,
indicating “increased surveillance of critical locations,” “coordinating emergency
53 Testimony of Governor Frank Keating (R.-Okla.) before the House Subcommittee on
National Security, Veteran’s Affairs, and International Relations. March 12, 2002, p. 4.
54 Author interview. U.S. intelligence specialists. March 8, 2002.
55 107th Congress, 1st Session: “Federal-Level Information Partnership Act of 2001" (S.
1615). November 1, 2001, pp. 1-2; “The Federal-Level Information-Sharing Partnership
Act” (H.R. 3285). November 13, 2001, pp. 1-2.
56 “Securing the Homeland,” pp. 19-25.
plans with nearby jurisdictions,” “assessing further refinements of protective
measures,” and “implementing contingency and emergency response plans.”)57 So far,
the issue of providing specific, detailed, timely, and credible threat information
remains a challenge. Nonetheless, Governor Ridge’s Office’s potential role as an
information “broker” could be vast, especially in developing new protocols for
disseminating federal level intelligence to the states and localities.
Alternative Models for Managing the War on
The role and effectiveness of OHS in developing and coordinating national
policy for homeland security activities are still in their formative stages. There
appears to be a a growing consensus in Congress, shared by some federal agencies,
that modifications are needed. Various alternatives, which are not mutually exclusive,
have been proposed.
One alternative focuses on the basis of OHS’s authority: that it be established
through legislation to ensure the Office’s legitimacy and sustainability, and that the
head of the Office be subject to confirmation by the Senate. A second theme is that
the scope of responsibility of the Office be expanded to encompass foreign as well as
domestic terrorist threats; that would imply integrating national security and
homeland security planning functions.A third proposal is to replace OHS with a
homeland security “super-agency” to exercise direct operational authority over
agencies performing domestic security functions and possibly with a coordinating role
vis a vis counterterrorism activities beyond U.S. borders. A fourth alternative is to
retain the OHS-HSC structure, mission, and relationship to the White House largely
intact, though possibly with a few organizational refinements.
These organizational scenarios may be the subject of careful consideration and
debate by Congress and within the Administration. What happens to OHS clearly has
important implications, both for the definition of “homeland security” itself and for
the parameters of the overall U.S. counterterrorism effort.
Perhaps the most frequent point of contention is whether OHS authority should
be based on statute or presidential directive. The argument is sometimes made that
a statutory basis and Senate confirmation are necessary because of the high profile of
the Office and because of Congress’s need to execute oversight over such a nationally-
important function as homeland security. A related argument is that the presidential58
order establishing OHS “violates the spirit of comity between the branches.” Others,
however, maintain that the more relevant question is whether a statute and increased
congressional supervision will enhance the performance effectiveness of the Office.
57 “National Alert System,” op. cit.
58 Ronald Moe. Office of Homeland Security. CRS Terrorism Briefing Book. November 1,
An example of the performance effectiveness view would be the above-
mentioned case of ONDCP. Compared to ONDCP’s limited statutory powers,
Governor Ridge’s informal budget influence is generally considered to be enormous,
stemming from his special relationship with and proximity to the President and also
from the strong antiterrorism consensus that developed in the wake of the September
11 attacks. On the other hand, some analyst argue that because of the President’s
wide-ranging foreign and domestic responsibilities such support will not always be
forthcoming. As former White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta noted in recent
congressional testimony: “the agencies and departments know very well that unless
the President is calling on every issue that the homeland security director is trying to
enforce, they can basically nod, say yes and walk away and nothing happens.”59
Much, of course, would depend on the statute itself and the nature of the powers
and responsibilities that it confers. The statute for the drug czar’s office provides
ONDCP with some provisional authority to intervene in the budget process and delay
finalization of agency budgets. In addition, ONDCP enjoys a single unambiguous
power to approve agency reprogramming requests of more than $5 million. Yet a key
coordinating power assigned to ONDCP—interagency transfers of funds to fill
perceived needs and gaps—requires approval of the heads of the respective agencies.
And, in any case, it cannot exceed 3 percent of the drug control budget of the agency
from which funds would be transferred.60
Also, certain provisions of the ONDCP’s statute may tend to weaken rather than
enhance the Office’s credibility. For example, Section 706, “Development,
Submission, Implementation, and Assessment of National Drug Control Strategy”
establishes specific targets that might be viewed as unrealistic and unrealizable: They
mandate “reduction of unlawful drug use to 3 percent of the population of the United
States or less by December 31, 2003" (the current figure stands at approximately 11
percent) “and reduction of the availability of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana by 80
percent by December 31, 2003.” (Estimated South American cocaine production
reached an all-time high of nearly 1,000 tons in 2001.)61
Also, it is not clear whether increasing the accountability of the Office would
improve its performance. Receiving the imprimatur (advice and consent) of the
Senate carries with it the cost of increased reporting requirements, including demands
for testimony by the OHS head. Whether reporting is a drag on performance or a
salutary check on it can be debated. Others point out that the dynamic and rapidly-
evolving nature of the international terrorist threat could require frequent changes in
59 Statement in eMedia.Mail Works, Inc., Federal Document Clearing House, Inc. “U.S.
Senator Russell Feingold (R-WI) Holds Hearing on Homeland Defense.” Transcript. April
60 P.L. 105-277. Title VII. Sec. 704. “Appointment and Duties of Director and Deputy
Directors.” 112-Stat. 2681 677-685
61 Ibid. Section 6, “Development, Submission, Implementation, and Assessment of National
Drug Control Strategy.” 681-682; telephone interview with Department of State, Bureau of
International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs March 16, 2002 and telephone
tnterview with Peter Reuter University of Maryland, April 15, 2002
OHS’s role and mandate, which would be more easily accomplished through
successive executive orders than through changes in legislation.
A strong and possibly decisive argument for greater congressional involvement
lies in the Office’s need for institutional legitimacy and long-term financial support.62
Congress’ specific authority to mandate government agencies implies that OHS cannot
function indefinitely without a legislative basis. For example, title 31 section 1347
of the United States Code states that “an agency in existence for more than one year
may not use amounts otherwise available for obligation to pay its expenses without
a specific authorization or a specific appropriation by law.”63 Furthermore, a
consensus is growing on Capitol Hill that empowerment by Congress is essential to
give Ridge’s office (or some alternative organizational arrangement) the requisite
power and tools to lead the domestic fight against terrorism.
Changing the Mandate
At issue is an interagency planning and coordinating process, spearheaded by
OHS, that largely excludes international aspects of the war on terrorism. One
important question is how resources will be allocated between domestic and foreign
counterterrorism activities. Most analysts are uncertain whether OHS’s forthcoming
National Strategy can resolve this issue. Another question is whether the separation
of counterterrorism planning into distinct foreign and domestic halves might distort
the budgetary process, leading to an overemphasis on America’s (essentially infinite)
vulnerabilities rather than threat assessments in making resource allocation decisions.
Arguments for vulnerability-driven threat assessments emphasize that threats
from terrorists, especially from less-organized ad hoc groups, are essentially
unpredictable. The Ramzi Yousef cabal that masterminded the 1993 World Trade
Center bombing can be cited as an example. On the other hand, it is argued that more
precise assessment of the nature, dimensions, and intensity of the terrorist threat is
both possible and necessary. A GAO study points to the tendency of intelligence
officials to exaggerate, if by default, the likelihood of terrorists’ use of chemical,
biological, radiological, or nuclear (CBRN) weapons or agents.
In our view, some of the public statements intelligence community officials have
made about the terrorist CBRN threat do not include important qualifications to
the information. For example, terrorists would have to overcome significant
technical and operational challenges to successfully make and release chemical
and biological agents of sufficient quality and quantity to kill or injure large
numbers of people without substantial assistance from a foreign government64
62 Moe, op. cit., p. 4; GAO, Homeland Security: Responsibility and Accountability for
Achieving National Goals. Statement of David Walker. GAO-02-6275. April 11, 2002, p.
63 U.S. Code. 1994 Edition. Washington, D.C. U.S. Government Printing Office, 1995.
64 GAO. Combating Terrorism, pp. 1-2.
The same can be said of nuclear weapons. Terrorists almost certainly lack the
expertise to build one, even if they could acquire significant quantities of fissile
nuclear materials. While reports abound of al Qaeda’s efforts to obtain a nuclear
weapon from unsecured Russian stockpiles, it is questionable whether that group
could muster sufficient connections inside the Russian defense establishment to
consummate such a deal.
The argument about OHS’s appropriate role is partly an argument about the
proper use of threat and risk assessments in combating terrorism. A case can be made,
especially in the light of recently reported advance communication failures regarding
the September 11 attacks, for a stronger role for OHS in international counterterrorism
— especially, perhaps, in overseeing intelligence efforts to track and analyze terrorist
threats. A series of questions then arises: Would an expanded role make for better
intelligence-gathering and threat assessments? Would improved intelligence result in
a national strategy to combat terrorism? Would an enhanced strategy, then, lead to
more sober calculation of the resources actually needed to confront the terrorist
There are no clear answers. OHS, of course, maintains linkages to the national
security community Yet some observers call for a more pronounced integration of the
intelligence and foreign policy agencies into the homeland security effort..
Admittedly, to reconfigure OHS in this fashion would be a major organizational
undertaking. Yet three of the major commission studies (by the Gilmore and Hart-
Rudman Commissions and the National Commission on Terrorism) proposed it. The
. Hart-Rudman Commission and the National Commission saw the coordinating role
as being performed by the NSC. The Gilmore Commission proposed creating a new
National Office for Combating Terrorism, the Director of which would be appointed
by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The Gilmore approach was embodied
in bills sponsored in the House and Senate.65 Viewed in this light, a possible
organizational solution — other than an OHS with ramped-up responsibilities —
would be simply to fold OHS into the NSC. A corollary move might be to resuscitate
the NSC’s National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure, and Counterterrorism.
This position was established by Presidential Decision Directive 62 in 1998 — but it
was rendered obsolete by the creation of the posts of OHS Director, Special Advisor
for Cyber Security and National Director for Combating Terrorism. A refurbished
National Coordinator, provided with sufficient staffing and resources, might serve as
a focal point for an entire gamut of counterterrorism-related activities.
65 “Organizing for Homeland Security,” p. 14; “Toward a National Strategy,” p. 12. The
proposed Office would “have sufficient budget authority and programmatic oversight to
influence the resource allocation process and ensure program compatibility.” The relevant
legislation includes S. 1449 (Graham et al.) “To Establish the National Office for
Combating Terrorism” and H.R. 3026 “The Office of Homeland Security Act of 2001.” The
latter called for setting up an Office of Homeland Security within the Executive Office of
the President, not unlike its current namesake. Yet the proposed office would develop a
national strategy “to include all aspects of prevention and response to terrorist activities.”
Proposals have been advanced to reorganize the federal government to create
greater efficiencies or synergies in the fight against terrorism. These involve, in
varying degrees, the creation of a unified command structure “to address the perennial
problem of coordination” and have varying implications for the current OHS-HSC
framework. For example, some schemes under consideration that would consolidate
two or more border control agencies, or subunits of them, are more or less compatible
with the continued existence of OHS and presumably would ease its coordination
burden. OHS itself proposed such a reorganization in the abovementioned “Border
Security White Paper” prepared in December 2001. It would create a new federal
border administration to take control of the Coast Guard, Customs, and parts of INS
and the Agriculture Department. However other Bush administration advisers favor
a more modest merging of Customs and INS border control and enforcement units into
a single agency under the control of the Justice Department.
More ambitious reorganization options, though, could supersede or embrace, at
least by implication, the coordination role performed by OHS. Such plans would
integrate a number of federal agencies performing domestic security functions. For
example, bills introduced by Senators Joseph Lieberman and Arlen Specter in October
would create a new “Department of Homeland Security” with a Secretary appointed
by the President “by and with the consent of the Senate.” The Department’s
responsibilities would cover border security and emergency preparedness and would
range beyond counterterrorism “to act as a focal point regarding natural and manmade
crises.” The new Department would assume control over the “authorities, functions,
personnel, and assets” of several entities: FEMA, the Customs Service, the Border
Patrol, the Coast Guard, and different offices of the FBI and the Department of
Commerce. Virtually identical legislation proposed a month earlier by Representative
Mac Thornberry would establish a “National Homeland Security Agency” (H.R.
in addition to coordinating foreign and domestic counterterrorism operations, setting
up a National Homeland Security Agency with FEMA as “the necessary core” and
including the Customs Service, the Border Patrol, and the Coast Guard.67
Even more expansive reorganizations have been contemplated. One such concept
would establish a new core agency, a Homeland Security Agency (HSA), along the
lines of that proposed by H.R. 1158 and Hart-Rudman; the HSA, however, would also
coordinate the activities and budgets of other agencies with counterterrorism
responsibilities, including the Departments of State, Justice, Treasury, and the CIA.
The institutional model for this mega-configuration would be the Director of Central
Intelligence, who not only runs the CIA but also “provides guidance” to other
66 107th Congress. 1st Session. “National Homeland Security Agency Act.” (H.R. 1158)
March 21, 2001, pp. 1-6; “Department of National Homeland Security.” (S. 1534) October
67 United States Commission on National Security, 21st Century, Road Map for National
Security: Imperative for Change. Phase III Report. Washington, D.C. January 31, 2001, p.
elements of the intelligence community in preparation of their budgets and
additionally retains at least a theoretical power to “approve such budgets before their
incorporation in the National Foreign Intelligence Program.”68 Most recently, bills
introduced by Senators Lieberman, Specter and Graham in the Senate (S. 2452} and
by Representatives Thornberry, Harman, Tauscher, Gibbons, Davis, Shays, and
Roemer in the House (H.R. 4660) envisage creating both a federal Department of
National Homeland Security and a National Office for Combating. Terrorism. The
former would contain directorates (for example, for critical infrastructure protection
and prevention) similar to those of the current OHS. The Secretary and Director of
these respective organizations would be co-responsible for drafting a National
Strategy for Combating Terrorism and Homeland Security Response. The National
Office would have broad responsibilities in the international sphere, including
coordinating the implementation of the Strategy by “military, intelligence, law
enforcement and diplomatic assets “and making budget recommendations for these
agencies. Additionally, that Office would have the authority to review and decertify
these agencies’ budgets, using procedures similar to those established in ONDCP’s
All such proposals for organization reform have sparked controversy. There is
little unanimity on the desirable scope or appropriate extent of reorganization.
Advocates of radical change see the need for a single center of gravity for homeland
security activities. Critics tend to see the process of consolidating agencies as costly,
time-consuming, and potentially disruptive. In certain cases, such as the Customs
Service (part of the Treasury Department) and the FBI’s National Infrastructure
Protection Center (NIPC), the pieces are not entirely distinct and separate from the
core missions of the parent organizations. Questions arise about the non-enforcement
functions of certain agencies; for example, what happens to Customs’ collection of
import tariffs and the Coast Guard’s search and rescue operations? Additionally,
consolidation proposals still fail to encompass organizations that play a crucial role
in homeland security, such as the Centers for Disease Control, which are responsible
for detecting and responding to biological attacks, the FBI, which is responsible for
crisis management, and DOD, which conceivably could become the lead federal
agency “in cases, such as a terrorist attack, where normal measures are insufficient to
carry out federal functions.”69 Finally, the scope of the new National Office appears
to coincide partly with that of the NSC, creating the possibility of conflict between
these entities. Congress will need more specific information about what problems will
be solved and created by proposed agency mergers and other organizational changes.
Almost certainly, bureaucratic reorganization, especially involving the mega-
solutions described here, is unlikely in the immediate future. This suggests to some
a continuing need for a coordinator or conflict-resolution mechanism such as the OHS
and the HSC. Success in coordinating federal antiterrorism efforts turns on the ability
to foster better sharing of information and resources among federal authorities and
68 “Authorities of the Director of Central Intelligence.” 50 USCA no. 403-404 (P.L. 102-
496). October 24, 1992, p. 16; M. Thomas Davis, Homeland Security: New Mission of a
New Century. Analysis Center Paper. Northrup Grumman. Washington, D.C. 2002, p. 14.
69 Rumsfeld’s testimony, op. cit.
their state and local counterparts, and at the minimum, OHS and HSC have served as
a vital stimulus to that purpose.
Finally, arguments can be made for retaining the present OHS-HSC structure and
for allowing it to concentrate on its domestic counterterrorism responsibilities. Even
in this limited sphere, the organization might be able to exercise a coordination
function, “especially if the President is prepared to intervene personally,” as one
commentator observes.70 A key issue is the definition of coordination. An OHS
staffer interviewed sees this process as essentially non-confrontational, “building a
consensus among agencies to follow a particular course of action.”71 This could work
if the President is willing to underwrite the OHS Director’s core positions in the face
of opposition from agencies jealously guarding their turf and prerogatives. Yet this
could cause great difficulties to the extent that it pitted the White House against
agencies belonging to the President’s cabinet. Alternatively, administrative measures
may be taken to strengthen OHS’s now weak formal role in the budgetary process. A
recommendation by the above-mentioned Brookings study would be to appoint a
single person to serve both as Ridge’s budget chief and as a new associate director of
OMB for homeland security. Under such a dual-hatting arrangement, argues the study,
OHS would have “ not only the overarching budgetary view that only a coordinating
office like OHS can have, but by being an integral part of the OMB process it can
exert major if not decisive influence on the final outcome.”72 A disadvantage of such
a step, though, is that it could increase the existing separation between domestic and
foreign policy aspects of counterterrorism budgeting and decision-making.
Pressure is increasing for formalizing the Office’s powers and for making the
OHS Director accountable to Congress; yet the question arises as to whether greater
institutional legitimacy in those terms would facilitate OHS’s coordination task or,
conversely, decrease its flexibility to respond to new situations. The Brookings
Institution study, which favors a statute, cautions that such legislation “should give
maximum operating flexibility to the president to design its organization and
Summary and Conclusion
In response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, President Bush created
the Office of Homeland Security by executive order as a federal focal point for
planning and coordinating domestic efforts against terrorism. OHS’s mandate was to
bring direction and coherence to homeland security at the federal level and also to
integrate the full range of such activities across federal, state and local jurisdictions.
70 “Organizing for Homeland Security,” p. 13.
71 March 5 OHS interview.
72 Protecting the American Homeland, p. 114.
73 Ibid., p. 116.
Establishment of OHS was initially welcomed as an important step toward
improving America’s domestic response to terrorism. Nevertheless, a consensus is
growing in Congress and in some federal agencies that OHS’s basis and scope of
authority need modification. In the eyes of some, the entire homeland security effort
should be structured along different lines. Critics argue that the Office lacks the
power to effectively coordinate the information and resources necessary to protect the
country against domestic terrorist threats. OHS Director Tom Ridge, despite his
special access to the President, is increasingly depicted as the loser in various turf
disputes with the Justice Department, the Pentagon and other government agencies.
Still other observers question the overall need for and relevance of Ridge’s office,
arguing that it adds little value to interagency coordination mechanisms that predated
the September 11 attacks or that were put in place after the attacks.
The essentially domestic focus of OHS’s responsibilities also has drawn
criticism. In this view, the international mobility and connectedness of terrorist
organizations, dramatized by the events of September 11, has effectively blurred
distinctions between domestic and foreign anti-terrorism policy. OHS’s mandate, as
presently defined, tends to separate these spheres, and this is seen as complicating
national planning and resource allocation for the overall counterterrorism effort.
Various remedies have been proposed to address these perceived problems. One
frequently-mentioned alternative is to enhance the OHS’s basis of authority with
statutory underpinnings and effective congressional oversight. Such a step, it is
argued, would provide OHS with the institutional legitimacy necessary to ensure
effective performance of its coordination functions. Another theme is that
coordination mechanisms per se are not enough and that a homeland security director
should exercise administrative line authority over policies and funding of agencies
involved in protecting the American homeland. A third recommendation is that OHS
play a stronger role in international counterterrorism, especially in coordinating
intelligence efforts to track and analyze foreign terrorist threats. Such a change would
imply integrating national security and homeland security planning functions, and
possibly absorbing OHS into the current NSC structure.
Proposals for reorganizing the U.S. counterterrorism effort are becoming
progressively more elaborate. Legislation recently introduced in the Senate and the
House of Representatives addresses a broad range of concerns. The bills would
consolidate entities responsible for border security and consequence management into
a single cabinet department. They would also create a new coordination mechanism
that, unlike OHS, would be largely concerned with he international aspects of
counterterrorism policy. The heads of the newly created entities would be co
responsible for creating a single integrated strategy and budget for fighting domestic
and global terrorism. Yet the fate of such proposals is uncertain. Critics view the
process of amalgamating agencies as costly, time-consuming, and potentially
disruptive. Turf-conscious bureaucratic actors seem likely to fight reorganization.
Creation of a unified national strategy to address all aspects of terrorism, while
perhaps inherently desirable, could to be a complex and difficult undertaking.
Nonetheless, the concept of OHS Director as an intelligence “broker,” working
to provide non-federal agencies with a better window on the world of international
terrorism (and to increase the upward flow of relevant information from the local to
the federal level), may have intrinsic appeal, even to the Office’s critics. Some
organizational changes at the margins, such as adding professional intelligence
officers to OHS’s Directorate of Intelligence and Detection, a step now being
contemplated, might strengthen the Office’s capability to perform this broker function.
In any case, the crux of OHS’s “value-added” as a coordinator may lie less in its
federal oversight role than in its success in addressing the relatively novel challenge
of empowering the states and localities in the fight against terrorism.