Obama Should Only Nominate Jeh Johnson If He Plans on Breaking Up DHS

There are multiple reports that President Obama is considering nominating Jeh Johnson to head DOD.

I get the attraction. Obama and Johnson get along well. Johnson only recently left DOD, so he knows it — and the legal loopholes it exploits — well. And in Johnson, Obama would have someone who would gloss his warmaking as something noble.

I even think Obama might welcome the way such a nomination would heighten the confrontation with the GOP on immigration.

Still, Johnson has served as head of DHS for less than a year. His tenure is only now marking a transition from a period during which DHS had such a wildly spinning revolving door that it could begin to serve its alleged mission.

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 that have proliferated in Washington since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

And all that’s on top of DHS’s almost impossible mandate, both because it is either too big or poorly defined.

Look, I’m sure Johnson’s a nice guy and maybe a great manager (he hasn’t been in place long enough for us to know).

But if DHS is a necessary agency, if its domestic spying and immigration and cybersecurity and disaster recovery missions are vital to this nation, if it is going to survive as a many-headed monster, then it should have the person Obama thinks is his best Agency head leading it. If that person is Johnson — as Obama’s consideration of him to lead DOD suggests — then moving him would seem to be a concession that DHS, and its obvious failures, really isn’t all that important after all.

If Obama moves Johnson from DHS to DOD, he should, at the same time, break DHS back up into more manageable agencies, declare the whole experiment an expensive failure, eliminate the word “Homeland” from our vocabularies. Because it is not working, and if there’s no urgency to make it work, then we should break it up into parts that can function competently again.


8 replies
  1. bloopie2 says:

    Point well taken. But really, DHS management should not be a problem. WE need only look to the Middle East for an example. Tell me what ‘homeland’ organization you see there that is quite recently ‘born’; that was cobbled together from disparate, often fighting, parts; that has no problem instilling loyalty in its people; that has a breathtakingly optimistic and glorious mandate; and that is, to date, wildly successful. Need a hint? It starts with “IS” and ends with “IS”.

    PS: Roasted butternut squash with tahini sauce is on the menu for tomorrow.

  2. TarheelDem says:

    Hear. Hear. Time to end Joe Lieberman’s creation that hardwires Israeli security into US law enforcement.

    That would be one hell of a fundamental fight with Congress. But we are overdue for some hellacious fundamental fights on issues that matter.

    Given the upcoming two-year shit-storm, I can understand why Obama would like to move Jeh Johnson to DoD. Loyalty and an understanding of how racists are trying to capture the military for their own war. And having come from DoD, DHS was likely a parking place for a potential future move like this.

    Is Johnson a philosophical neo-con? Does anybody know his strategic views?

    It is very interesting that Flournoy made such a public deal of taking her name out of the short list.

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    DHS is a clusterfuck. Apparently by design. (It was also apparently designed to further gut public employee unions.) That DHS’s “mission” is vague, overstated and impossible to achieve makes it a dumping ground for political hot potatoes, poorly run programs, their raft of political appointees, and their hyperextended budgets. It is to govt agencies what airport security theater is to security; it is the Tammany Hall of the public budget.

    DHS’s opaqueness and incompetence, measured against its mission, and Congress’s abject unwillingness to oversee any aspect of it, are its attractions. Accountability is impossible, indeed unwanted. As long as Congress keeps funding DHS while evading all oversight, its existence is political nirvana.

    Managing DHS competently would controvert those aims, enhance accountability and reduce its authority to abuse. Those aims Mr. Obama seems constitutionally unable to pursue. Which suggests Mr. Johnson is already packing his bags.

  4. Anon says:

    Given that Obama is forcing out a competent head of the DOD over his apparent inability to become BFFs perhaps Obama thinks that the DOD is the lesser agency.

    More importantly, if you draw a line across the administration and look at the early firing of Shirly Sherrod to his appointment of people like Summers and his apparent inability to predict that a cable company lobbyist would be hostile to net neutrality, it is clear that appointments are not his strong suit. Rather he seems to suck at actual management either in finding the right people or knowing when not to fire decent people.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Apparent incompetence is more marketable, and carrries less liability politically and legally, than intent. Mr. Obama makes poor appointments, and supports them poorly (except in rare circumstances), by design. The art of being Gerald, so to speak, is to appear to be one thing while being another. At that, Mr. Obama is superb.

  5. GKJames says:

    My vote goes to “DHS … really isn’t all that important after all.” Its genesis was the 9/11-related suspension of thought so that panic could have free rein. That was immediately followed by opportunism and the usual Washington knife-fights over power, influence, and money. All of which means, at this point, that it’s probably cheaper and politically easier to leave DHS in place to keep honing buffoonery to a high gloss. We can consider it (like TSA) a large government employment program for the Washington metropolitan area. And like its sibling in Langley, it can join the ranks of American institutions navel-gazingly oblivious to the world’s more portentous developments.

  6. Michael Murry says:

    I recall a period of recent history where anti-corruption laws required that a period of five years had to elapse before a former government employee could go to work for any company doing business with the government. When did Congress and the President repeal those laws? Or do these anti-corruption laws still remain on the books but no one in any administration will enforce them? Given the rampant venality and corruption alluded to in this article, I realize that I’ve probably answered my own questions by asking them, but still, does anyone actually know?

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