Right-Sizing The Department Of Homeland Security

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson

This is a fifth in a series of opinion articles dealing with the necessity of reducing the size and cost of a bloated federal bureaucracy that has demonstrated its ineffectiveness and its inefficiency. These opinion articles are adapted from an original position paper, America’s Path to Prosperity, authored by the American Issues Policy Group.

“In the United States, the concept of ‘Homeland Security’ extends and recombines responsibilities of government agencies and entities. According to Homeland security research, the U.S. federal Homeland Security and Homeland Defense includes 187 federal agencies and departments, including the United States National Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the United States Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the United States Secret Service, the Transportation Security Administration, the 14 agencies that constitute the U.S. intelligence community and Civil Air Patrol. Although many businesses now operate in the area of homeland security, it is overwhelmingly a government function.”[i]

  The Core Missions

There are five homeland security missions:

  1. Prevent terrorism and enhance security
  2. Secure and manage our borders
  3. Enforce and administer our immigration laws
  4. Safeguard and secure cyberspace
  5. Ensure resilience to disasters

The Department of Homeland Security produced a 2015 budget in brief consisting of 176 pages at $61 billion, with an accompanying Congressional Budget Justification consisting of 3,499 pages.[ii]  Reviewing how this budget is allocated provides interesting insight in the departments operations.  The analysis is provided within the mission statements of the Department of Homeland Security.[iii]

What’s Wrong with DHS?    First, let’s start with size.  DHS is the third largest department in the federal government with more than 200,000 employees and an annual budget of more than $40 billion.  It is a sprawling, excessively large bureaucracy that has been criticized for waste, ineffectiveness, inefficiency and lack of transparency. An example of all the above is the $1 billion spent on the Secure Border Initiative virtual fence.

Second, one of its primary missions is securing and managing our borders. Not only has DHS failed miserably to secure and manage our borders it cannot account for the illegal aliens that it has allowed to stay in the United States.  Further, ISIS camps have been established just across the border, ISIS operative have been captured illegally entering the United States, and ISIS has threatened to attack U.S. hard and soft targets.[iv]  Not only has DHS failed to secure our borders but also Obama has virtually invited 52,000 Central American children to America through his so-called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order.[v]

Third, another primary mission of DHS is to prevent terrorism and enhance security. How well has DHS prevented terrorist acts? Since 9/11, there have been forty-four terrorist attacks or incidents on U.S. soil through September 25, 2014.[vi] Yet, this is one more stunning failure for DHS.

Fourth, as proof of the unmanageable sprawl of DHS, Congressional oversight consists of more than 90 committees and subcommittees, and an additional 30 congressional task forces and commissions.[vii]

Fifth, since its inception, DHS has suffered from management failures and has been labeled “high-risk” by the General Accounting Office. Employee surveys found that DHS is the worst department to work for in the federal government and has a very high employee turn-over rate.[viii]

Conclusion.  The Department of Homeland Security has proven unmanageable.  Congress created this monstrosity in 2002 in response to 9/11 by throwing together 22 disparate agencies responsible for a vast array of activities.  The largest agencies within DHS are Customs and Border Protection, the Coast Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Secret Service. DHS needs specific downsizing and tailoring to enhance its ability to meet its missions.


  • Abolish the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) and move the responsibility to the private sector via a conversion of TSA into an airline security consortium.  Two-thirds of TSA’s budget is passenger and baggage screening that can be accomplished more efficiently at the local level.  Savings: $750 million.[ix]
  • Eliminate the Federal Air Marshal Service, which has shown little if any benefit for its cost. Flight passengers have demonstrated a heightened alertness to fellow passengers and, indeed, have taken action on their own to protect themselves and their plane.  Savings: $1 billion.[x]
  • Transfer FEMA to the Interior Department.
  • Consolidate Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Coast Guard into a slimmed down DHS that focuses solely on our borders, whether on land or sea.
  • Transfer the Secret Service back to the Treasury Department.

Ten Year Estimated Savings:  $20 billion[xi]


[i] Department of Homeland Security, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homeland_security

[ii] Department of Homeland Security, http://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/FY15BIB.pdf

[iii] Department of Homeland Security, http://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/FY15BIB.pdf

[iv] Michael Snyder, “ISIS Has Camps on the U.S. Border, But Obama says ‘Right-Wing Extremists’ Are the Greatest Threat,”  http://www.infowars.com/isis-has-camps-on-the-u-s-border-but-obama-says-right-wing-extremists-are-the-greatest-terror-threat/

[v] Jim Avila, “Analysis: What’s the Real Reason behind Central American Immigrant Wave? U.S. Law,” ABC News, http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/06/analysis-whats-the-real-reason-behind-central-american-immigrant-wave-u-s-law/

[vi] “Islamic Terror Attacks on American Soil,” The Religion of Peace, http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/Pages/AmericanAttacks.htm

[vii] Matthew Gault, “The Department of Homeland Security is Broken,” War is Boring,


[viii] Chris Edwards, “Terminating the Department of Homeland Security,” CATO Institute,


[ix] Chris Edwards, “Privatizing the Transportation Security Agency,” CATO Institute,


[x] Ibid.

[xi] Calculation based on initial savings of $1.750 billion increased annually by 3% through 2012.

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