zenpundit.com » Blog Archive » Summarizing the Biggest Reorg in History

Summarizing the Biggest Reorg in History

The Wilson Quarterly has a not terribly flattering review of the creation of The Department of Homeland Security:

The Homeland Security Hash

“Much as it opposed a new department, the Bush administration felt it could not let the Senate Demo­crats take the lead on homeland security, especially not with the congressional elections looming in November. By early spring, the White House had decided to design its own ­merger.

It could not be just any merger, however. According to a 2005 retrospective by Washington Post reporters Susan B. Glasser and Michael Grunwald and a study last year by four researchers at the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Defense Management Reform (Legislating Civil Service Reform: The Homeland Security Act of 2002), the White House concluded that if it wanted to take back the homeland security issue, nothing but the biggest merger in modern history would do. Ignoring warnings of bureaucratic train wrecks and a clash of cultures, the administration put five White House aides to work on designing a maximum ­merger.

Selected for their loyalty more than their collective knowledge of government reorganization, the Gang of Five-or the G-5, as its members liked to call themselves-included a future Internal Revenue Service commissioner, a National Guard major general, and three other ­mid-­level aides. But experienced or not, the G-5 was given firm instructions to think big. “The overriding guidance,” G-5 member Bruce M. Lawlor later told the Post, “was that everything was on the table for consideration.”

The members of the G-5 took their mandate seriously, and began searching the federal organization manual for merger targets. Although the G-5 used the Senate proposal as a foundation and certainly knew enough to get started, the planners soon strayed far from the notion that the new department should be built around agencies with similar missions. What about adding the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)? The Secret Service? The National Guard? The Drug Enforcement Administration? The Federal Aviation ­Administration?

The choices seemed endless. The G-5 even considered detaching the Lawrence Livermore ­nuclear ­research laboratory from the Department of Energy and slipping it into Homeland Security. Richard Falkenrath, a G-5 member, simply called up a friend and asked which laboratory might fit: “He goes, ‘Livermore.’ And I’m like, ‘All right. See you later.’ Click.”

It was all part of the ­maximum-­merger zeitgeist. More agencies equaled a better ­reorganization.”

Read the whole thing here.

I’m not an expert on DHS matters, so anyone who has some knowledge of this process is cordially invited to sound off in the comments.

4 Responses to “Summarizing the Biggest Reorg in History”

  1. Maarja Krusten Says:

    Hi, Mark, thanks for the link, I had not seen the Wilson Quarterly piece.  Your blog always is worth reading.  You might find this testimony statement from 2002 of interest:

  2. Maarja Krusten Says:

    Sorry, I messed up the link, I have little experience in posting links and am unfamiliar with the technology in your redesigned blog (don’t laugh!!).  The item is at:

  3. zen Says:

    Hi Maarja,

    Thank you very much! I have some themes here but I try not to get into ruts and change-up my sources every now and again.

    When you have time, shoot me an email, will you ? I have a colleague who needs some of your insight as an archivist and federal historian.

  4. name Says:


Switch to our mobile site