chapter  5
Case study of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
Pages 24

Abstractions in the preceding chapter were useful for demonstrating how a model of complex geometry can illustrate systemic behaviors, but they beg for application of the method to a real organization. DHS is a natural selection because it is the most complex agency in the US government; its formation and reorganization provide excellent examples of rule changes that significantly affect the structure of relationships as represented in the KH model; and justification for the merger contradicts my thesis. Has consolidation under the new Cabinet level department improved coordination of federal agency security functions? Is there an explanation of the experience that emerges from creating a KH model of the organization as a complex adaptive system? Highly publicized blunders of DHS executives in the agency’s first five years made an ambitious coordination task nearly impossible, as heightened expectations for a broad range of services were focused on one secretary.1 There is evidence beyond the popular media, however, that decision-makers may have underestimated the challenge of achieving meaningful coordination of operations. My survey of the literature on DHS reorganizations and management found over two dozen studies with commentary on the organizational structure and management of the agency. Most of them acknowledge progress but quickly get down to the business of diagnosing what was wrong with the consolidation plan and/or its implementation. Authors direct numerous suggestions of what should be done differently toward Congress, the President, and appointed executives.2 I found considerable support for my notion that the social network is a critical factor in design and operation of government organizations. The next three sections document the proposals and debates surrounding creation of DHS and cite findings of the Government Accountability Office, Inspectors General and academics that analyze the real control and coordination problems identified in the aftermath. The rest of the chapter describes how the KH model can help us understand these issues by focusing on systemic features and critical relationships. The KH framework will be applied to what is undeniably a complex system to demonstrate by a tangible example that accountability is a process, not a rule. Imposition of a new hierarchic structure was a solution to control and coordination problems only if one assumed that sharing of knowledge and joint decisions would ensue. In reality, for reasons discussed at some

length in previous chapters, the bureaucracy reacted in predictable fashion – by fighting to protect perceived turf and traditional methods.