Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

March 6, 2006

Conference examines transatlantic dimensions of homeland security

Filed under: International HLS — by Christian Beckner on March 6, 2006

The Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) hosted a conference last week on “International Aspects of Homeland Security.” The conference featured presentations by a number of members of Congress and academics on various dimensions of international cooperation within the broad scope of homeland security. The Center’s website is in the process of putting these presentations online at this link.

The Center also released a monograph in conjunction with the event, entitled “Transforming Homeland Security: U.S. and European Approaches”; the full-text PDF of the report is available at this link. The report provides a valuable overview of the challenges of transatlantic cooperation on homeland security, a set of recommendations addressed at tackling them, and a deeper dive in the book’s chapters on a number of key issues.

The introduction notes six top-level challenges associated with international (and in particular, US-European)cooperation on homeland security:

  1. Divergent perspectives on the definition of “homeland security”;
  2. Differences in the perception of terror-related risk;
  3. The viewpoint within the U.S. that homeland security is an issue of “war and peace”, and in Europe is an issue of “crime and justice”;
  4. Concern within Europe about American intentions when it “pushes borders out” as part of homeland security initiatives;
  5. Organizational incoherence and misalignment in both the United States and Europe;
  6. The spillover from other foreign policy issues such as the war in Iraq.

The introduction also includes a number of interesting recommendations that respond to these six challenges. For example, the report suggests the idea of shifting the definitional scope of homeland security to a broader notion of “societal security”:

The modern concept of “societal security” retains the core principle of total defense—the need for a comprehensive societal effort— while widening the notion to embrace a broader, all-hazards approach to risks and threats. Instead of mobilizing civil society to assist the military in the face of external attack, the military is now one element to be mobilized as part of an overall response to major societal disruptions, including—but not limited to—terrorism.

The report also suggests the need for more “networked” approaches to defeating terrorism:

But traditional alliance mechanisms or government-to-government relationships are inadequate to the challenge of globally networked terrorism. It will take a network to beat a network. A key premise of transformed homeland security is networked defense: traditional structures must be supplemented by an overlay of informal networks that offer a denser web of preventive efforts. Since most of the critical infrastructures that terrorists might want to destroy or disrupt are linked to global networks, it is vital to include citizens and companies in any new regime. This will require governments to define national security more in societal than statist terms and to move beyond traditional “public diplomacy” and “outreach” activities for NGOs toward more effective public-private networks….

Transformational homeland security will depend increasingly upon new forms of cooperation among state and non-state actors. In the international sphere, such efforts have been led almost entirely by institutions that are neither nation states, regional unions, multilateral organizations, or international organizations, but rather informal networks of law enforcement agencies, regulators, and the private sector. Such “international non-organizations” such as the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the Egmont group or the Lyon Group can make a difference by setting standards and attacking nodes of terrorist or criminal activity.

This networked approach and outlook needs to be inculcated into everything that the Department of Homeland Security does on an international basis; state-to-state meetings and accords have their role, but they are far from sufficient. This perhaps all sounds a bit theoretical, but I think it’s a critical success factor for the long-term effectiveness of the war on terror.

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