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Report Says DHS Can't Manage Internal Misconduct Because The DHS Just Doesn't Do Anything About Internal Misconduct

Published: June 25, 2019
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The long history of abuse and misconduct by DHS components stretches back for years. Agencies like ICE, CBP, and the TSA have never not been abusing their power to violate rights, circumvent the protections of the legal system, or just treat everyone like garbagefor national security reasons.

Why has nothing gotten better? Well, if you're the DHS, you've tried nothing and you're all out of ideas. The latest report [PDF] by the DHS Inspector General understates the issue. The title says the DHS needs to "improve" its oversight of misconduct and discipline. Start with the baseline low enough and any incremental forward motion is an improvement.

Reading through the report, it's apparent the DHS simply doesn't care what abuses happen on its watch. No one in the agency -- not even those specifically tasked with following up on allegations of misconduct -- seems to think it's their job to follow up on allegations of misconduct.

DHS does not have sufficient policies and procedures to address employee misconduct. Specifically, the Department’s policy does not include procedures for reporting allegations of misconduct, clear and specific supervisor roles and expectations, or clearly defined key discipline terms. These deficiencies occurred because DHS’ Employee Relations office has limited staff, who do not believe they are responsible for managing the allegation process.

The DHS might know this if it took any interest at all in tracking misconduct and discipline issues. But it can't be bothered.

DHS also does not effectively manage the misconduct program throughout the Department, lacking data monitoring and metrics to gauge program performance.

The DHS has an annual budget of nearly $41 billion. I don't know what it costs to WRITE, let alone follow through with, effective misconduct policies, but whatever we're (the People) are spending, it isn't nearly enough.

The Department does not have sufficient policies and procedures to address misconduct. Specifically, Directive 250-09, Discipline and Adverse Actions Program (Policy) does not include procedures for reporting allegations of misconduct or clearly define key discipline terms used across the components.

The failures cascade from there. Because the policy doesn't lay down procedures or define terms, the Employee Relations staff sees nothing in it compelling them to do their damn jobs and follow up on allegations brought to them by employees.

The DHS has handled the bureaucratic work of setting up a number of offices for managing the misconduct allegation supply chain. But in truly bureaucratic fashion, it has ensured the misconduct management system isn't operable.

There are multiple offices and processes for managing allegations of misconduct at DHS. The Chief Human Capital Officer is responsible for establishing and administering department-wide human resources policy and procedures. The Chief Human Capital Officer also oversees and directs component disciplinary actions. However, the Policy does not define misconduct, how to report allegations of misconduct, or to whom allegations should be reported.

One problem is the lack of definitions. If no one knows what they're looking for, they can't do anything about it -- not even boot it upwards or sideways from their inbox to someone who might be able to navigate the DHS's convoluted non-process and seek a resolution. If securing the homeland is a game of Bingo, we're losing.

The failures aren't just internal boondoggling by the DHS. They're also violations of law. The National Defense Authorization Act of 2017 laid down rules for internal policy consistency and best practices. These have been ignored. When the DHS is left to roll its own policies, it continually proves it can't be trusted with this job.

And it will always fail because it doesn't care if it ever succeeds. No news may be good news somewhere, but the DHS has turned "ignorance is bliss" into unofficial policy.

The Department does not collect or monitor the components’ data to understand the number of allegations, types of misconduct reported, or trends across the Department.

If you don't know bad things are happening or if things are getting worse, maybe bad things just aren't happening and you're improving as an agency.

The IG recommends the DHS stop doing all the things that aren't working and start doing some of the things it's supposed to be doing already. I guess we can be happy the DHS has agreed with all the recommendations. But I'm guessing a decade from now we'll be reading about the DHS's struggles to commit to something they agreed to a decade ago.

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