We don't need Homeland Security

With Congress deciding to fund the Department of Homeland Security for only a week, I’m going to ask the question few seem to be asking: Why not just eliminate the megalithic bureaucracy?

To put my question in context, let’s back up to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. There wasn’t a Department of Homeland Security. But there were customs and border protection agencies, a U.S. Coast Guard, a Federal Emergency Management Agency and others with specific jobs designed to protect our nation and citizens.

Just 11 days after the attack, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge was hastily appointed to head up the new Office of Homeland Security. A year later, in November 2002, Congress passed the Homeland Security Act, and the department officially came into being, with more than 20 federal agencies being lumped together under one giant, bureaucratic umbrella. The agency officially opened its doors March 1, 2003.

Since that time, the agency has usurped a lot of power, the Transportation Security Administration has been formed and the agency has grown from nonexistence to an agency with a $41.2 billion budget.

My opinion — rethink the agency’s creation, divest much of the power it has usurped and give autonomy back to United States Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Coast Guard, Federal Emergency Management Agency and others. While we’re at it, completely disband the TSA.

We, as a nation, should be well beyond the post-9/11 panic. Besides, after its time in existence, if Homeland Security has yet to implement a plan that allows our military and border agencies to protect us, then it has failed as a whole.

Looking at the agency — with the exception of the Coast Guard and border agencies — most of the Department of Homeland Security is redundant. Don’t believe me? Consider the duties of agency employees and compare them to our local law enforcement, National Guard, NSA, FBI, DEA, ATF and the military.

Today, the Department of Homeland Security is in the business of fear-mongering, not protecting. But do you really feel any safer boarding an airplane behind a TSA checkpoint? I don’t — I’m just annoyed by the delays.

I find it interesting federal officials say that if Congress opts not to fully fund Homeland Security this week, about 85 percent of agency employees will continue to work anyway. Those who will not be on the job are, in the government’s own words, “non-essential.” If they’re non-essential, then why are they living on salaries funded by taxpayers?

The growth and voracious financial appetite of the agency are symptomatic of a failing government bureaucracy, bloated by non-essential, tax-funded jobs. Congress has an opportunity to start nibbling away at the federal deficit by disbanding the agency, TSA and eliminating non-essential jobs.

Common sense suggests we should just return the defense of our nation to our military and our border agencies, rather than a bureaucratic agency.

With the money we save by shutting down a bureaucratic machine run in Washington, D.C., we can bolster our local border agencies, improve local law enforcement and get air traffic back to pre-9/11 normalcy.

That $41.2 billion can be better spent outside of Washington, D.C.

Roger Harnack is the editor and publisher of The Chronicle. He can be reached at 509-826-1110 or via email at rharnack@omakchronicle.com.


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