President Bush has announced his plan
to create a Cabinet-level Homeland Security Agency in the largest reorganization of the federal government in fifty years. This plan would combine such agencies as the Coast Guard, the Secret Service, the National Transportation Safety Board, and others into a single agency dedicated to defending the nation’s borders and infrastructure.
Is is a winning move? Well, yes. The kind of interagency turf battles that often occur between various agencies interfere with the kind of work they need to do. There will be a lot of bureaucrats who will resist these changes, but there appears to be enough bipartisan support to see the changes through.
Giving Tom Ridge the kind of budgetary control and authority to get things done should help to break the inneffective position he’s been in since taking the Homeland Security position. Furthermore, if done correctly, the new Homeland Security Department should be able to cut some of the bureaucratic fat of the old agencies, and sharpen their focus towards homeland security.
This is a major victory for President Bush in another way – this is an unprecendented development in the battle against bureaucratic mission creep that is the hallmark of the federal government. He’s managed to significantly reduce one major sector of the federal government, at least in theory. Should Ridge and Bush be able to forge an effective and focused agency, Bush can use the example of this new agency to further reform the federal bureaucracy.
Still, it pays to be cautious about these changes. It could well be that these changes will do little to slow the creep of the federal bureaucracy. However, now that we know the price of bureaucratic turf wars and lack of communication, at least one important function of the federal government may get the kind of reform and attention it needs.