The Department of Homeland Security takes the lead on Mexico

Last night, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow interviewed the secretary of homeland security, Janet Napolitano. Her first question: Should her job even exist, or should the 22 federal agencies and 200,000 employees under the D.H.S. banner disaggregate?

Napolitano, the former governor of border-state Arizona, didn't get defensive at Maddow's question, she just calmly explained her plans for the agency. Surprisingly her top priority seems to be Mexico.

Sounding sensibly hawkish, Napolitano stressed the importance of federal agencies working together to systematically to stop the flow of guns and money south and give Mexican authorities the shot in the arm they desperately need.

What's so weird about this? Two things.

First, Janet Napolitano is the secretary of homeland security, not defense or state. But rather than ineptly responding to natural disasters and taking a lot of flak for airport lines, Napolitano has taken leadership over the U.S. response to the burgenoning crisis, which may include sending troops across the border. She's acted as point-person for local politicians and leadership from the White House, State, Defense, and the Attorney General's office. Texas Governor Rick Perry turned to her to ask for a thousand more troops.

Second, D.H.S. hasn't been a happy perch in government -- even its employees hate it. Is this change we can believe in for the department that needs it the most? (Well, maybe second-most.)

Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images


Airbus's good year and two links

One European company seems to be surviving the global economic downturn just fine. EADS, the pan-European aerospace conglomerate best known as the parent company of Airbus, has recovered from a dismal 2007 to record a $2 billion profit in 2008. 

Travis Sharp's new piece for FP, might offer a hint for why things are looking up for EADS. While the world's economy contracts, countries everywhere are investing in expensive military systems like those built by EADS:

Despite its overwhelming dominance in overall spending, the United States did not have the fastest growing defense budget in the world between 2005 and 2007, the most recent period for which an accurate assessment is possible. That distinction belongs to Kazakhstan, which saw its defense budget increase by 84 percent. Other countries with booming budgets during this period included Angola (80 percent), Ukraine (57 percent), Jordan (57 percent), and Slovakia (55 percent). The United States, China, and Russia had more modest growth rates of 17 percent, 27 percent, and 33 percent, respectively.

But EADS's good times may not last forever, particularly if U.S. Democrats enact "Buy American" policies to limit the amount of equipment the U.S. military buys from overseas. The main flashpoint for this debate is an Air Force refueling tanker contract that Airbus and U.S. rival Boeing have been fighting over for years with Congress acting as an increasingly incompetent referee. Former Undersecretary of Defense Jacques Gansler believes military protectionism is bad for dense and ultimately bad for the economy:

The Defense Department is not a social welfare organization, and its sole responsibility is to supply U.S. war fighters with the best equipment at the best price. Luckily, though, these two goals aren't mutually exclusive: Military globalization is in fact a blessing for Americans.

The United States is still the world's largest military customer, and it's in the interest of international weapons manufacturers to do business where the buyers are. In the past decade, a number of major international firms have set up shop in the United States. In fact, the Northrop deal would have created tens of thousands of U.S. jobs.

 JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images