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Almost any reference to the U.S. as the “homeland” makes me cringe. It has such a jingoistic ring to my ear that I am immediately suspicious of the speaker’s motives: “Propaganda Alert!” I suppose anyone who makes their home in this land has a right to call it their homeland, if they must. The term seems uniquely appropriate for native americans. For others residing in this “nation of immigrants”, the homeland always strikes me as a reference to the country of origin of someone’s ancestors.

It’s all the worse when a government super-agency engaged in a variety of controversial activities uses “homeland” as its middle name. That very name, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), suggests that whatever it is they do there must be in the interests of our homeland, and therefore beyond reproach.

To me it’s creepy and Orwellian, but the name of the agency is of little import relative to its activities. Now, as the fight over DHS funding — and President Obama’s executive order on immigration — reaches a fever pitch in Congress, Nick Gillespie asks, “Why do we even have a Department of Homeland Security in the first place?”

“Created in 2002 in the mad crush of panic, paranoia, and patriotic pants-wetting after the 9/11 attacks, DHS has always been a stupid idea. Even at the time, creating a new cabinet-level department responsible for 22 different agencies and services was suspect. Exactly how was adding a new layer of bureaucracy supposed to make us safer (and that’s leaving aside the question of just what the hell “homeland security” actually means)? DHS leaders answer to no fewer than 90 congressional committees and subcommittees that oversee the department’s various functions. Good luck with all that.

Gillespie expounds on the profligacy and mismanagement at DHS. It has a voracious appetite for resources and taxpayer funds and is notorious for waste, to say nothing of its less than full-throated enthusiasm for civil liberties:

“The Government Accountability Office (GAO) routinely lists DHS on its ‘high risk’ list of badly run outfits and surveys of federal workers have concluded ‘that DHS is the worst department to work for in the government,’ writes Chris Edwards of the Cato Institute.

That shouldn’t make anyone feel much safer. Gillespie advocates dismantling the entire agency. A high-level org chart for DHS is shown here. Certainly its constituent sub-agencies were able to function before the DHS concept was hatched. There might have been some interagency rivalry, but there was also cooperation. Would a DHS have been better able to anticipate and prevent the 9/11 attacks? That’s doubtful. Given its track record, it’s difficult to see how the DHS bureaucratic umbrella improves security, and it is not a model of cost efficiency despite expectations of reduced duplication of overhead.

Threats by a faction of the GOP to defund DHS enforcement of Obama’s immigration order are creating another deadlock in Congress. The order would grant amnesty to over 5 million illegal immigrants, but a Federal judge has ruled in favor of 26 states that sued to stop enforcement based on the imposition of enforcement costs on the states. GOP leadership would rather approve funding and let the courts do the heavy lifting to stop the order, but the administration has asked the judge to stay his injunction pending appeal. If a stay is granted, and that is unlikely, or if an appeals court overturns the ruling, implementation of the order would go forward before the conclusion of what would likely be a protracted legal process. The de-funders are unwilling to take that chance.

Democrats claim that the effort to defund DHS enforcement of the executive order will shut down the agency, which is nonsense. GOP leadership fears that Republicans will be blamed if there is even a perception of negative consequences. I suspect Obama will do his best to create those perceptions, but the funding gap won’t have much real impact. In any case, I’m with Nick Gillespie: to hell with the DHS administrative umbrella! Releasing the individual security agencies from DHS’s grip would be more likely to reduce costs with no loss of security, and just might promote individual liberty.