Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

December 20, 2005

Chertoff speech at GWU: initial reactions

Filed under: DHS News,Organizational Issues,Risk Assessment — by Christian Beckner on December 20, 2005

Some instant response to Chertoff’s speech at GWU this morning:

1. This was a very solid speech by Chertoff and retrospective of his first year as Secretary.

2. DHS perhaps read my post this past week on the fact that Chertoff had stopped talking about the “risk-based approach” this fall. By my quick count, ‘risk’ or ‘risks’ were mentioned at least 34 times (update: transcript has 36)…a new record. He also acknowledge the inherent complexity in communicating to the public and the media about risk, commenting that “everybody liked this in March” but he has found out that frank talk on risk is “applauded in theory but criticized in practice.”

3. He talked about TSA in terms of applying this risk-based approach, and defended the recent changes in screening rules consistent with a threat-vulnerability-consequence methodology. He noted that he was worried about mission creep at TSA, commenting that TSA was not stood up “to deal with serious but non-terrorist threats such as unruly passengers.” He wants TSA to serve as the “smart hand” of security – not the “heavy hand.”

4. He went into a lot of detail on his management philosophy for DHS, comparing it to the Justice Department’s efforts in the 1980s to reorganize its approach to fighting organized crime, and taking a systematic approach to the challenge – one in which individual and agency metrics are not as important as the collective impacts and accomplishments. Chertoff noted that the question in DHS now needs to be “am I contributing to the whole mission?” instead of “have I done my job today?”

5. He described how DHS has applied this systematic approach to the border security challenge this year, having mapped out the entire system and begun to operate and measure effectiveness based upon a holistic system-wide perspective. He indicated that the Department will following the same model: create a unified plan with joint execution and joint measurement for other challenges, such as cargo security and intelligence.

6. He noted that the biometric entry portion of US-VISIT will be completed by year-end (including land borders).

7. He noted that new, stronger risk-based criteria for state and local grants are being implemented. States and localities will have to show how grants are consistent with the National Preparedness Goal.

8. In the context of his discussion of the possibility of mission creep at TSA, he mentioned that he has seen mission creep with terror-related or national security databases before – to deal with lesser evils like deadbeat dads, etc.

9. He noted that the following elements of the Second-Stage Review have now essentially been implemented: (a) creating the policy office, (b) strengthening the “intelligence shop”, (c) enhancing the ability to conduct joint operations across the department, and (d) giving DHS a renewed focus on preparedness.

Update: Press commentary on the speech is now up, from AP and Federal Times. His full prepared remarks are here.

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1 Comment »


Pingback by Homeland Security Watch » Blog Archive » Do we need UAVs on the border?

December 22, 2005 @ 12:11 pm

[…] The use of UAVs on the border is definitely not the same slam-dunk technology application that UAVs are in hostile and enemy territory, where one of their key differentiators is their higher risk tolerance to getting shot down. If it takes a ground crew of 20 people to operate one, as the inspector general testified, then I have a hard time seeing how they are cost-effective in comparison with small piloted planes – which obviously can’t stay in the air for 20 hours, but require little ground support. A decision on UAV deployment needs to be ultimately driven by rigorous cost-benefit analysis consistent with the “systems approach” to border security that Sec. Chertoff has talked about since July, most recently in his speech on Tuesday…not by the coolness factor of one technology over another. […]

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