While the challenges are not presented in priority order, we continue to believe that presents the greatest challenge to the Department.
We look forward to continuing to work with the Department to respond to these important issues.
In a survey conducted by San Ramon, Calif.-based Ventana Research, when respondents asked if they were aware there are better alternatives to Excel for performing critical finance functions, only 49% said "yes." The remaining half was divided between "don't know" with 32%, and "no" with 19%.
Thus, designing an organizational structure to coordinate homeland security activities is not only a difficult intellectual task, it also calls for many hard choices, since more than 40 national security and domestic departments and agencies are involved.
The experiences of the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) and the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) attest to these difficulties, as do the divergent recommendations of the various commissions that have called for reforms in the governmental processes for countering terrorism and providing homeland security. President Bush chose to model the new organization after the National Security Council (NSC), although he opted to constitute the staff as a new office and to give it enhanced budget responsibilities.
In addition, we have posed many questions that go to the heart of the Department’s structure and operations, such as whether the Department is adequately addressing the growing costs of the federal prison system, whether aspects of the Department’s four law enforcement components could be further consolidated with each other, and whether the Department’s operations duplicate similar efforts by other federal agencies.
These questions are not new, but they take on new importance in this era of constrained budgets.
Governor Ridge will have a deputy and some 120 staff members, drawn primarily from the agencies currently involved in homeland security.
Coordinating the executive branch's many largely autonomous departments and agencies has historically been an enormous challenge, and the integration of domestic and national security policies has been particularly problematic.
"They haven't looked up from their spreadsheets to see if there are better ways," said Robert Kugel, Ventana senior vice president and research director.
He added that even when users are aware of more attractive options, they rarely move away from Excel, which could be due to weak business cases for new systems or fear of change.
Kugel explained that the phenomenon of having two or more versions of a spreadsheet with inconsistent data is so common that it has given rise to its own term: dueling spreadsheets.