2002, the year in review:
Government’s new anti-terrorism look
The signing of legislation on Nov. 25 that will bring 22 federal agencies and 170,000 employees together under one roof — figuratively if not literally — as the nation’s new Department of Homeland Security promises to be largest transformation of government in half a century. But it was not the only anti-terrorism plan involving bureaucratic re-engineering that lawmakers confronted this year.
President Bush, who endorsed the legislation in June after pressure from Democrats and Republicans alike to addresses weaknesses in the government’s response to terrorism, proposed a $37.4-billion budget for the new department for 2003. While full implementation is years away, the department is expected to be up and running by March 1, and at least organizationally completed by Sept. 30.
Under the direction of Tom Ridge, the former Pennsylvania governor who has served as White House domestic security adviser, and who will likely win confirmation as the newest Cabinet member, the Department of Homeland Security will include nearly all federal law enforcement agencies, including the Coast Guard, Customs Service, Secret Service, and Immigration and Naturalization, along with numerous other federal communications, science and technology agencies. The Central Intelligence Agency and the FBI will have to share their data with the department’s new intelligence center, but they will not be part of the department.
“There has been a lot of discussion among us about how you can reorganize federal law enforcement and not include the FBI, the largest federal law enforcement agency,” Richard Gallo, the president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, told Law Enforcement News. “We’re kind of befuddled by that. There’s only 30,000 total, more or less, federal law enforcement criminal investigators and you’re talking about one agency having 11,500 of those criminal investigators and they’re not even part of this reorganization.”
Gallo said in June that his organization was also concerned about civil service and pay benefit issues, as well.
On that score, the administration won. The law bans collective bargaining for department employees, and gives managers greater power to fire, hire and discipline workers.
Customs Service employees moving to the new department feel “pretty devalued and disrespected,” said Colleen Kelley, the president of the National Treasury Employees Union.
“If the administration’s goal was to create a more mobile and agile work force, then it’s succeeded, because they’ll be streaming out the door faster than you can say, ‘Bye,’” T.J. Bonner, the president of the National Border Patrol Council, told USA Today.
Some also warned that an overhaul of this magnitude would not serve not to protect the nation from terrorist threats, but rather to distract the government from that goal.
“The first challenge is to lower expectations,” said Paul C. Light, who studies government organization at the Brookings Institution. “People should think they will be safer, but remember we have a long way to go.”
The creation of a new agency for gathering intelligence — somewhat along the lines of Britain’s MI-5 — was under consideration, but may not come to fruition, in the face of a report by a federal commission which stated that combining law enforcement with intelligence collection could make the FBI look like a type of “secret police.”
The commission, headed by former Virginia Gov. James Gilmore, warned that efforts to fight terrorism must not infringe on civil liberties.
The commission’s recommendation was rejected by Justice Department officials and by FBI Director Robert Mueller. Problems that hampered the sharing of information prior to 9/11 have been fixed, Mueller said.
Thinking of law enforcement and intelligence gathering as two separate functions is a misconception, said Mueller. “This misunderstanding of counterterrorism has led some to conclude that we should separate these two functions and create a new domestic intelligence agency,” he told The New York Times.
Another plan that may be stopped in its tracks is one that would reconfigure the Internet to identify some users. In August, a two-day workshop held by SRI International, a California-based research firm, brought together computer security experts to explore a concept known as eDNA.
Under the plan, the Internet would be divided into secure “public highways,” where users would need to identify themselves with a digital version of a fingerprint in order to gain access, and “private network alleyways,” where they would not, according to The Times.