Thursday, July 23, 2015
Ali Mayorkas, deputy secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security joined me on The Business of Government Hour to discuss the department’s key strategic priorities, the challenges it is facing, how the DHS “Unity of Effort” initiative is going, and wha

Since its inception the US Department of Homeland Security, DHS, has undertaken numerous reviews and reorganizations in an ongoing effort to increase the department's efficiency and effectiveness in managing its wide ranging complex mission set. In April of 2014, Secretary of Homeland Security Jed Johnson directed DHS leadership to make several key changes to "transparently incorporate" DHS components into unified decision making process and the analytic efforts that inform decision making. The secretary indicated that the overarching goal of this new effort is two-fold: To deepen understanding of the DHS mission space and to empower the department's components to effectively execute their operations. Over the last year, DHS has pursued this unity of effort against the backdrop of challenges such as tightening budgets, low morale and complex oversight structures. Ali Mayorkas, deputy secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security joined me on The Business of Government Hour to discuss the department’s key strategic priorities, the challenges it is facing, how the DHS “Unity of Effort” initiative is going, and what DHS is doing to improve its operational performance. Here's a snapshot of our discussion. On Challenges My first challenge involves the success of the department’s “Unifying the Effors” initiative across the department. It is our goal to bring a singular focus of expertise and resources from across the department in the most efficient manner so to ensure that we achieve our varied missions most effectively. We want to do this while being careful stewards of the public trust. We've seen tremendous strides under the Secretary's leadership. I would like to highlight a compelling example of this effort represented by the Southern Border Campaign where we've taken all of the different assets of the department that have traditionally or historically been devoted to border security and all of its ancillary concerns and brought them to bear in a more unified and cohesive fashion than ever before We are coordinating the efforts of Customs and Border Protection alongside but separate from the United States Coast Guard, alongside but separate from Immigration and Customs Enforcement and so on. I think the impact of such an initiative will be far greater and the proper allocation of resources will be far more effective. This is truly a transformational effort. Another significant challenge in managing the department is the constant need to do more with less given today’s federal budget environment. On Surprises Prior to becoming deputy secretary, I was obviously well aware and quite familiar with the significant mission of the department, but once you are in a role as deputy secretary the breadth and depth of the department’s mission set becomes even more significant and surprises abound. Let’s take, for example, the Ebola response. DHS was on the frontline of screening travelers from the three African countries that were hot zones for Ebola. We devoted considerable effort and energy in response to this crisis. If you had asked me three years ago what role the department would play in response to such a crisis I probably would have answered somewhere on the periphery, but that wasn’t so. I think it's just a fascinating breadth. It's both a challenge and an incredible opportunity. On Strategic Priorities The second Quadrennial Homeland Security Review was released in 2014. We concluded that we will continue to adhere to the five basic homeland security missions set forth in the first Quadrennial Homeland Security Review report of 2010, but that these missions must be refined to reflect the evolving landscape of homeland security threats and hazards. Prevent Terrorism and Enhance Security Secure and Manage our Borders Enforce and Administer Our Immigration Laws Safeguard and Secure Cyberspace; and Strengthen National Preparedness and Resilience We must constantly learn from them and adapt. I’d like to offer to examples. The terrorist threat is increasingly decentralized and may be harder to detect. We to an increasing degree are focusing our attention on the homegrown violent extremist…that using social media ISIL can motivate individuals here in the U.S. to take action. The other example is that cyber threats are growing and pose ever-greater concern to our critical infrastructure systems as they become increasingly interdependent. The interplay between cyber security and our critical infrastructure, the interdependency there is a constantly evolving, growing phenomenon and we've had to shape our cyber strategy and our protection of critical infrastructure accordingly While the 2014 QHSR focused on our shared responsibilities with partners across the federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, the private sector, and other nongovernmental organizations, the FY14-18 Strategic Plan focuses on how we accomplish our mission as a Department. Accomplishing these missions requires unity of effort – across every area of DHS activity and among the numerous homeland security partners and stakeholders. On the Unity of Effort Initiative The department has many strengths. The Unity of Effort Initiative capitalizes on these strengths while identifying ways to enhance the cohesion of the department as a whole. The Department will accomplish this not by centralizing the decision making authority and processes within an opaque DHS Headquarters, but rather by transparently incorporating DHS Components into unified decision making processes and the analytic efforts that inform decision making. As I described, this effort draws upon the resources and focus of different parts of the department and makes sure that those different parts of the department are working in coordination with one and other in a unified way to address that single mission challenge. We will focus initially on four main lines of effort to improve our planning, programming, budgeting and execution processes: Inclusive senior leader discussion and decision making forums that provide an environment of trust and transparency; Strengthened management processes for investment, including requirements, budget, and acquisition processes that look at cross-cutting issues across the Department; Focused, collaborative departmental strategy, planning, and analytic capability that support more effective DHS-wide decision making and operations; and Enhanced coordinated operations to harness the significant resources of the department more effectively. My role is to help oversee this effort along with partners within the department’s components. We meet regularly to make sure that we are in fact unifying our efforts. I mentioned earlier the Southern Border Campaign as a good unity of effort example. Here’s another example using the department’s aviation resources. The Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection have aviation resource needs. We have looked at the interplay of those resources both in terms of the requirements, both in terms of the use and deployment. Have we analyzed whether they can merge their purchasing processes, their requirements development processes, and perhaps even their deployment processes? We're taking a look to make sure that when we buy an aircraft we inform decision-makers so that the most useful tool is identify across the department and not simply component specific. If executed properly, the Unity of Effort Initiative will provide the department with better understanding of the broad and complex DHS mission space and support the effective execution of our missions. I invite you to listen and/or download my complete interview with Ali Mayorkas, deputy secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security on The Business of Government Hour