By Julia Davis
On January 3, 2015, Senator Tom Coburn released the report that outlines his findings pertaining to the efficacy of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in executing its primary missions. Senator Coburn has been a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee since 2005. The report finds that the DHS is failing miserably in every one of its stated missions. Since criticizing the DHS is an unspoken taboo for most of the mainstream media, this report was released on Saturday and received very little press coverage. Traditional reporting typically defends the DHS by telling the viewing audiences that the agency is comprised of “our best,” all of whom are risking their lives to protect the nation. In reality, neither of those statements holds water.
Official missions of the DHS are as follows:
Mission 1—Preventing Terrorism and Improving Security
Mission 2— Securing and Managing Our Borders
Mission 3— Enforcing and Administering Our Immigration Laws
Mission 4—Safeguarding and Securing Cyberspace
Mission 5—Strengthening National Preparedness and Resilience
The report finds that the Department of Homeland Security is failing in every one of its missions. It states that the DHS “primary counterterrorism programs are yielding little value for the nation’s counterterrorism efforts … The nation’s borders remain unsecure … The Department of Homeland Security is not effectively administering or enforcing the nation’s immigration laws … The Department of Homeland Security is struggling to execute its responsibilities for cybersecurity, and its strategy and programs are unlikely to protect us from the adversaries that pose the greatest cybersecurity threat … The Department of Homeland Security is federalizing the response to manmade and natural disasters by subsidizing state, local, and private sector activity.”
One of the ways that DHS intended to support the nation’s counterterrorism mission was by supporting state and local fusion centers, which are meant to serve as hubs of intelligence sharing between federal, state, and local officials. The Department spent between $289 million and $1.4 billion supporting the approximately 70 fusion centers across the nation. In 2012, the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigation (PSI) completed a two-year bipartisan investigation of DHS’s support for the state and local fusion center program, which found that DHS’s work with the fusion centers had not produced useful intelligence to support federal counterterrorism efforts. The PSI investigation revealed that fusion centers “often produced irrelevant, useless or inappropriate intelligence reporting to DHS, and many produced no intelligence reporting whatsoever.”
The DHS has spent more than a half a billion dollars to regulate the security of chemical facilities at risk of potential terrorist attacks. However, 99 percent of all the chemical facilities that were supposed to be overseen by the program are yet to be inspected. As of 2014, 700 hundred miles of the Southern border are not secure, since the DHS and its component, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), failed to deploy assets to control these areas. The chance of an illegal immigrant being removed by the DHS is slightly over 3 percent. The report found that until recently, the DHS “did not have a comprehensive strategy for securing the border … The Department also faces a potentially significant problem of corruption in its workforce assigned to secure the border … DHS spending on programs to secure port facilities, infrastructure, and cargo have not accomplished their objectives.”
Since the DHS can’t enforce existing immigration laws, nor is able to effectively manage tracking and monitoring of the people who have entered the U.S. legally, the report questions whether the agency is able “to effectively manage any large program to provide new immigration benefits to people currently living in the United States illegally, as was ordered by President Obama on November 20, 2014.” The report points out: “The Department’s lax approach to immigration law enforcement, and broad applications of prosecutorial discretion with regard to enforcing immigration laws also exacerbates DHS’s challenge securing the border. Rather than deterring illegal immigration, lax immigration enforcement creates an expectation that people entering the nation illegally or violating the terms of their visa will be allowed to stay, facing no consequences.”
Approximately 36 convicted terrorists came to the country using various forms of student visas, but the DHS is failing to effectively manage the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), which is currently used by more than one million people to gain entry into the United States. The report also notes that in February 2013, ICE released more than 2,000 illegal immigrant detainees, including more than 600 aliens with criminal records; creating a risk to public safety and further undermining the agency’s credibility.
While failing in its official missions, the DHS is encroaching upon the rights and liberties of American citizens, without any benefit to the nation’s national security. Senator Coburn’s report states: “We are willing to endure the inconvenience of arriving at the airport earlier and having our luggage screened, but we are wary of increased government policing and surveillance. We are concerned that despite spending billions of dollars on border security, tens of thousands continue to enter our country illegally and, in 2014, 700 miles of our Southern border were unsecure. The same is true of cyber security. We have spent billions to protect against cyber attacks, yet even White House computers have been susceptible to hacking.”
The Department of Homeland Security is a multi-billion dollar behemoth that employs more than 240,000 people and spends approximately $61 billion annually. The agency disposed of $544 billion of taxpayers’ money since 2003, with little to show for it. The DHS allowed a convicted terrorist to become a US citizen, spent $30,000 on Starbucks, provided Zombie Apocalypse training for the DHS personnel, purchased 13 sno-cone machines, spent $45 million on a failed video surveillance network and even bought a hog catcher. Cities were essentially allowed to spend the money on almost anything they want, under the guise of “terror prevention.” As Senator Coburn’s previous report found, “DHS and Congress have often let politics interfere, diluting any results. Instead of sending funds where they can have the biggest impact, money is spread around to parochial political interests. This ensures fewer complaints and broad political support, but does not necessarily mean we are safer.”
Read more at The Examiner