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Former Under Secretary of Homeland Security, Author of “Deadly Indifference”, National Security Blog Expert - The National Journal, Political Blogger - The Daily Caller, Radio Talk Show Host - "The Michael Brown Show", Founder & Chairman - Apoklayyis, Inc.

ATF & The Permanency Of Government

When the Bush Administration and Congress agreed to create the Department of Homeland Security I recall thinking that we were simply “rearranging the chairs on the Titanic.”

We did not need to create the monstrosity called DHS. Its creation but proved the axiom that there is nothing so permanent as a government program. After all, Congress and the Administration couldn’t be seen as not “doing something” in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, but what would be easier (legislatively) than to just combine 22 disparate agencies into one conglomerate?

Now we’re seeing that axiom proven again with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (the ATF).

Evan Perez writes in today’s Wall Street Journal that the current ATF director is looking to “reinvent it, and maybe even change it’s name.”

Notice how the current ATF director is not looking to dismantle the agency?

You will find a fascinating history of the ATF on its website which shows how a government agency metastasizes over the years, irrespective of its historical or even current mission. Some responsibilities of the ATF are duplicated by the FBI, DEA, the Treasury and others. Originally known as the Bureau of Prohibition, that name alone shows how a government agency can grow and take root in Washington regardless of whether the original mission is still relative or not.

So what is happening to ATF today? The fifth acting director in the past six years (how does that create accountability?) wants to do what every bureaucrat wants to do – protect his or her turf. B. Todd Jones, the current “acting” director has suggested renaming the ATF to the Violent Crime Bureau.

Now there’s an original idea – just rename a bureaucracy and you’ve effectively rearranged the deck chairs just as I suggested was happening with DHS.

According to the Wall Street Journal article former FBI Director Louis Freeh considering absorbing the agency in the 1990′s, but for whatever reason was never able to accomplish that absorption. It should have been. In 2010 the agency handled fewer than 100 alcohol or tobacco cases, but more than 500 arson and bomb investigations and 10,000 firearms cases. Seems all of those could be handled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Consolidate. But that’s not Congress’ way of doing business.

Shut it down, transfer the employees to the FBI, and combine those responsibilities under the FBI. Or, shut it down, and lay off all those employees and transfer the duties to the FBI, and let them advocate for any increases in their own budget to fulfill those responsibilities (if a budget increase is even needed). But at least Congress would be trimming the bureaucracy, exercising some oversight, and giving taxpayers some comfort that government will be trimmed.

Instead, we’ll probably get a name change. Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) said a name change is like “rearranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic.”

Like I said…

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