Homeland Security offers a bonanza
of pork to districts that face virtually no terrorist threat. The Blackfeet
Nation of Montana received nearly half a million dollars in fiscal year 2010,
"to help strengthen the nation against risks associated with potential
Homeland Security is the worst place
to work in the federal government. A 2006 survey of 36 federal agencies found
that DHS came dead last in "job satisfaction" and "results-oriented performance."
According to respondents, there was a lack of leadership, reward for
innovation, and information about the running of the organization.
Senator Susan Collins, a Republican
from Maine, summed it up: "It seems no matter where we look at Homeland
Security, we find a pattern of waste, fraud and abuse."
DHS is ripe for savings and
efficiencies. The fruit isn't just low hanging--it's boxed and ready to ship.
But Republicans have excluded Homeland Security from any cuts (along with defense, veterans affairs, Social Security, and Medicare).
Politics and ideology combine to
curtail a rational debate about the Department of Homeland Security. Cutting
DHS funding offers few votes. Quite the opposite: any politician who calls for
reduced funding will face the wrath of special interests. And if a future
terrorist attack could be linked--even tangentially--to earlier cuts, it might be
career ending (this is an even bigger problem for Democrats who live in dread
of being labeled "weak on terror").
Ideology also prevents a rollback of
the Department of Homeland Security. Conservatives are all in favor of big
government--so long as it's fighting our enemies.
When Washington provides services
for the good guys (or law-abiding citizens), conservatives see it as a
monstrous and wasteful bureaucracy. Like a bumbling Clark Kent, government
can't even tie its own shoelaces.
But when Washington battles the bad
guys (criminals, terrorists, and enemy states), conservative beliefs about
government turn on a dime. Clark Kent becomes Superman. The sclerotic
bureaucracy morphs into the protector of the homeland and the shield of the
The same bureaucracy that can't be
trusted to run healthcare, can be trusted with expansive control over the
destruction of America's adversaries.
Government "death panels" are fine
if they're deciding on the fate of terrorist suspects or targets for drone
strikes--but abhorrent if they're making health care decisions for retirees.
And just to prove the rule, when
Homeland Security forgets its true job--defeating our adversaries--and instead
impedes the freedom of the good guys, conservatives are quick to rail against
The new airport security rules that
include pat downs of sensitive areas have touched a nerve. Tea Party Nation
founder Judson Phillips recently criticized the DHS. "It invades [Americans']
privacy while not going after terrorists."
But for a few exceptions, there's
little appetite among conservatives for tackling spending at Homeland Security.
Of course, such cuts would only make a small dent in the overall deficit. But
the willingness to rise above politics and ideology will show just how serious
Republicans (and Democrats) are about balancing the budget.