Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on Thursday said his successor should continue his ongoing efforts to reform the department’s management and called on Congress to authorize changes at the department that he has requested.

Johnson said at a forum hosted by The Atlantic that thorough his Unity of Effort initiative “we’ve done a lot to make the department a more effective and efficient place and that work needs to continue.”

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. Photo: DHS
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. Photo: DHS

He said Congress needs to “embrace” some of the Unity of Effort initiatives, including a proposal to restructure the current National Protection and Programs Directorate as the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Protection Agency (CIPA). The House Homeland Security Committee has already approved the reorganization, which would transition NPPD from a headquarters unit to an operating agency.

As the CIPA, the organization will be “meaner and leaner,” Johnson said.

Johnson launched the Unity of Effort initiative in April 2014 to get the department to organize and act in a more unified fashion. One of the efforts includes joint task forces to enhance security along the nation’s southern border and another is the resurrection of the Joint Requirements Council to examine DHS requirements and procurements more comprehensively and integrated product teams at the department’s Science and Technology Directorate to take a more holistic approach to research and development needs across components.

Tom Ridge, the first DHS Secretary, and Johnson both said that eliminating the onerous congressional reporting obligations of the department would go a long way to making the department more effective and allow department leaders to build stronger relationships with fewer overseers in Congress.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said later in the forum that he agrees with the need to pare the number of congressional committees and subcommittees overseeing DHS.

McCaul said that the creation of his committee, with limited jurisdiction over DHS, was a “political compromise” that was expected to be fixed “and never was.” McCaul said he spoke with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Wednesday about the jurisdiction issue, adding that he will propose in the next Congress that the jurisdiction issue be dealt with.

Currently, DHS is overseen by more than 100 congressional committees and subcommittees.

“It’s dysfunctional,” McCaul said. “It cripples the department” because they are always responding to Congress instead of focusing on their mission of protecting the country, he said, adding that he’s proposed legislation for the department that has had to go through other committees and as a consequence has been delayed.

McCaul also said his committee is looking into the department’s organization, saying that in the next month it will “develop…an idea of what the department should look like moving forward with the next administration.”

Congress has an oversight responsibility for DHS but it “should be driven” from the Homeland Security Committee, McCaul said.