Dr. Mark Green is a physician, businessman, and combat veteran representing Tennessee’s 7th district in Congress. He is a member of the House Homeland Security Committee and House Oversight Committee.
The U.S. military is the most powerful, effective, and unstoppable military force in the world, and this is for many reasons. One of the Defense Department’s greatest strengths is its organizational structure, centered around combatant commands. Combatant commands (COCOMs) sequester the entire fighting force of all the service branches and military capabilities under a chain of command. This is broken down for six different geographical regions, and we also have four functional COCOMs focusing on priorities like cyberwarfare, space activity, and the command in which I served, USSOCOM for our special operations.
These structures were designed with a goal in mind—to synchronize all aspects of national power at the decisive point on the battlefield—and have helped our Department of Defense become very effective in prosecuting the commander-in-chief’s intent. On the other hand, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is young, and has been charged with a daunting mission to secure our border and keep America safe. After visiting the southern border this summer, I believe it too needs the proper structure to maximize resources, create economies of scale, and accomplish its mission.
DHS has six broad missions. It defines the border mission as follows: “Managing the flow of people and goods into the U.S. is critical to maintaining our national security…. Illegal aliens… disregard our national sovereignty, threaten our national security, compromise our public safety, exploit our social welfare programs, and ignore lawful immigration processes.” After abysmal failures by previous administrations and Congress, we now have over 11 million illegal immigrants. The status quo is not working.
The American people elected President Trump in large part because he was actually serious about the mission. He has fought for a strategy to stop illegal immigration—and has already made great progress in building the wall, cracking down on visa overstays, and enabling our brave men and women at Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to do the jobs bipartisan Congresses gave them. Yet he is being derailed at every angle by obstructionists who see no other role in their daily life than to be a nuisance to the rule of law in our country for the sake of scoring political power.
Congress should work together with President Trump to create something similar to a COCOM for securing our southern border. We are seeing around 1 million pounds of drugs at our border every year, and that is just the amount we catch. And we are seeing vulnerable people looking for economic hope oppressed and trafficked by transnational criminal cartels. This cannot go on. We have a crisis. For the sake of every fleeing migrant and for the sake of the American people, we must fix this—now.
A COCOM-like structure would create a command in charge of the personnel and resources across agencies, including partners in DOD, DOJ, USDA, HHS, to accomplish our goals. It would be capable of caring for the distressed migrants whom the Democrats claim to want to help yet fight against every genuine effort to bring that help to realization. And it would get to the actual work of stopping the flow of illegal immigrants. The advantages of continuity of command, synchronization of assets, economy of force, and centralized planning achieved with combatant commands in DoD would serve the boarder mission effectively. Perhaps the COCOM would be temporary to handle the current crisis. Either way, until we provide unity of effort of the key elements of our national power charged with protecting the southern border, we will continue to struggle to accomplish the task.
As Americans, we want to celebrate legal immigration, but that mission necessitates a strategy that secures the border and respects the rule of law. That mission requires leadership to work smarter, not harder. That mission requires a better command structure, and a combatant-like command is needed.
President Donald Trump wants to solve this crisis. In the 2016 election, the American people made clear they want to as well. It’s time Congress steps up to the plate to help him do that. Our Defense Department has succeeded because of largely bipartisan efforts over decades to fund it, structure it well, and support it fully. It’s time to do the same with the Department of Homeland Security.