Obama names DHS transition team

From CQ Politics:

President-elect Barack Obama ’s transition team named Clark Kent Ervin (DHS’s first Inspector General) and Robert R. Beers (former national security advisor to John Kerry in 2004) to lead the group that will review the Department of Homeland Security and make personnel and policy suggestions, .

The role of the Agency Review Teams is to conduct reviews that provide information to Obama and other key players on budget, personnel and policy matters.

GAO outlines 13 critical HS priorities for Obama administration

Defense readiness and spending; food safety; preparing for large-scale health emergencies; and homeland security are among a list of 13 “urgent issues” the Government Accountability Office (GAO) “has identified as among those needing the attention of President-elect [Barack] Obama and the 111th Congress during the transition and the first year of the new administration and Congress,” Acting Comptroller General, Gene Dodaro, said Thursday.

UPDATE 11/17: View the GAO’s full recommendations for DHS and all other agencies on the GAO transition web site

McCain and Obama differences on intelligence

From Bloomberg.com:

John McCain and Barack Obama agree that the next president needs to shake up U.S. spy operations. That’s where the similarity ends.

Whoever wins Nov. 4, the next president must overhaul a $47.5 billion intelligence effort, spread through 16 agencies, that’s still struggling seven years after failing to prevent the Sept. 11 attacks and six years after wrongly concluding that Iraq had WMD.

The latest challenge involves revamping a 2004 law that was supposed to repair flaws exposed by 9/11 and Iraq, national security analysts say. The law established a new office led by a director of national intelligence, or DNI, to oversee the CIA and other intelligence operations. So far, the law has added a layer of bureaucracy without giving the director – currently former NSA Director Mike McConnell – enough authority over agencies’ budgets, national security analysts say.

“The DNI is still very much a work in progress, and a lot people are thinking it’s not working,” says Mark Lowenthal, former CIA assistant director for analysis and production. The next president must get it right, because U.S. spies face an array of threats besides terrorists and hostile countries like Iran and North Korea, advisers from both campaigns say.

Why HS isn’t an election issue: Voters don’t know what they want

From CQ Politics:

The presidential candidates’ deafening silence on homeland security has a logical explanation: voters have no particular policy preferences on the topic, so there’s no advantage in being specific.

“If you ask [voters] ‘are you concerned about homeland security, are you concerned about terrorism,’ they actually are,” James J. Carafano, a senior homeland security fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said Friday in a speech at George Mason University. “They’re very concerned about that. But the reason why it’s not a campaign issue is because people don’t know what they want. So whatever their candidate wants, that’s OK by them.”

“They know all they have to do is say something and then their constituents will be happy and then they’re done,” he said.

The lack of focus on homeland security should not surprise anyone.

“The point is now there hasn’t been an attack, al Qaeda’s on the run in Iraq” and there haven’t been a lot of attacks in Western Europe, Carafano said. “So Americans are still greatly concerned about terrorism, they don’t think they are going to be the victim of a terrorist attack and they just want to be reassured that somebody’s looking out for them.”

The situation, he said, is “exactly” what transpired during the Cold War.

Bush sets up council to work on transition to next administration

From TheHill.com:

President Bush on Thursday signed an executive order creating a Presidential Transition Coordinating Council that “will help to coordinate efforts already under way to ensure a seamless presidential transition.”

In the explanation of the order, one of the reasons cited for why this is important is that we are “working to protect ourselves from future terrorist attacks.”

Likely approaches to counterterrorism in next Presidential administration

From Kim R. Holmes, PhD, The Heritage Foundation:

There are certain enduring truths or facts about fighting terrorism that will persist regardless of who becomes president or what the candidates have said during their campaigns. Indeed, rhetoric of late leaves the impression that there are two radically different paths to fighting terrorists. While such differences do exist, these distinctions are not as radically divergent as some believe. Indeed, for either path to be effective, several approaches must be preserved.

National Guard likely to get stronger voice in next Presidential administration

The National Guard appears likely to get a stronger voice in policy making and decision making in the next Presidential administration, regardless of which candidate takes office.

Addressing the annual conference of the National Guard Association conference on consecutive days (September 21st and 22nd, respectively), John McCain and Joe Biden both called for a greater role for the National Guard.

Senator John McCain called for “a national leadership that respects and treats our adjutant generals as partners in national homeland security policy making, rather than impediments and intruders.”

Senator Joe Biden went further, noting that 52% of the returning veterans from Iraq are guardsmen and reservists, and advocating that with the National Guard carrying such a burden, the head of the National Guard deserves a seat at the table with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.