If you've ever been curious about how big bureaucracies get built, a report by the inspector general at the Department of Homeland Security provides some clues.
The report, scheduled for release today, focuses on the lack of coordination between two of the department's agencies: Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Although the report shows that stuff happened, for lack of a more artful phrase, it acknowledges that investigators came up short on the why and how.
Investigators for the inspector general, for example, had a difficult time finding out why ICE was created.
"Most CBP and ICE officials told us that they are still puzzled over the decision-making concerning ICE's structure," the report said. "According to them, to this day, no one has been able to articulate the rationale for the current structure."
The 2002 law that established the department called for a Border and Transportation Security Directorate, which would include two bureaus: the Customs Service and the Bureau of Border Security. The law also permitted the Bush administration to revise the organizational plan.
On Jan. 30, President Bush modified the plan, creating CBP and ICE. The decision came as a surprise, according to the inspector general's report, noting that "most of the rank and file CBP and ICE employees learned of the decision through a press release."
(Several transition teams worked on the formation of the department and were managed by the White House and the Office of Management and Budget. The inspector general's team wrote, "We sought but were unable to obtain interviews with several of the most senior participants in the planning effort.")
CBP evolved around the concept of "one face at the border" -- combining the functions of customs, immigration and agriculture inspectors at ports of entry and Border Patrol agents guarding 20 sectors along the nation's borders. But there appears to be no clear explanation for ICE, the inspector general's report said.
ICE pulled together criminal investigators, detention and deportation officers, immigration enforcement personnel and other federal law enforcement officers, including the Federal Air Marshal Service, which was moved from the Transportation Security Administration, and the Federal Protective Service, moved from the General Services Administration. But the clarity of ICE's mission was sacrificed to achieve "critical mass" for its own sake, according to the report.
In the end, the department avoided a super-sized border control agency by opting for two large agencies that were supposed to depend heavily on each other. (ICE has more than 14,000 employees and a $4 billion budget. CBP has about 40,800 employees and a $6 billion budget.)
But ICE and CPB never pulled together, and the inspector general concluded that they should be merged to strengthen homeland security and end problems of communication and coordination.
The Border and Transportation Security Directorate, which was supposed to integrate CBP and ICE functions, was not given control over the budgets of the two agencies, could not stop turf wars that broke out and has become "superfluous with respect to border enforcement," according to the report. The directorate should be abolished, the report said.
The next chapter in the Homeland Security reorganization may be written on Capitol Hill. The House Homeland Security subcommittee on management and oversight, chaired by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), has scheduled a hearing for today to look into the report's findings.
Pentagon Health Fair
Nine insurance plans will hold a health fair for Pentagon workers and other federal employees from noon to 6 p.m. Thursday in Arlington.
The fair, to begin the enrollment season for the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, will feature representatives from CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, CareFirst BlueChoice, Mail Handlers, GEHA, the American Postal Workers Union, the Foreign Service Benefit Plan, Kaiser, M.D. IPA and Aetna.
The fair will be held at the Residence Inn by Marriott, 550 Army Navy Dr. For more information, contact Malcolm Gaskins at 202-680-7056 or, by e-mail, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Walton Francis, chief author of Checkbook's 2006 Guide to Health Plans for Federal Employees, will take questions on the federal health benefits program at noon tomorrow on Federal Diary Live at www.washingtonpost.com. Please join us.