Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

June 19, 2006

Book Review: Protecting the Homeland 2006/2007

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christian Beckner on June 19, 2006

The Brookings Institution published an excellent volume on homeland security policy last month, Protecting the Homeland 2006/2007. The book provides a timely status report on the state of homeland security today, and its nine chapters span a range of topics, including intelligence, international homeland security, border security, and technology development. The introduction to the book is available on Brookings’ website.

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The authors of the book (Michael O’Hanlon, Jim Steinberg, Jeremy Shapiro, Peter Orszag, and Michael D’Arcy) take a careful, studious look at the state of homeland security and find a more nuanced reality than that typically described in the political debate today. They offer ample evidence of progress in a range of areas, including intelligence, aviation security, and border security – and find many areas where progress is lacking. They argue that the amount of homeland security spending is, by and large, in the right ballpark, making the case for incremental new investments in a number of areas, but not a humongous spending increase, as others have proposed. And they discipline themselves, and prioritize their recommendations based on these budgetary realities – lending greater weight to the items that they do recommend.

Examples of recommendations found in the book include:

  • Creating a separate domestic intelligence agency outside the FBI;
  • Folding the Homeland Security Council into the NSC;
  • Increasing the number of units within DOD dedicated to disaster and terror response;
  • Developing a more strategic relationship with Europe on homeland security issues;
  • Encouraging municipalities to purchase “mobile interoperability centers” rather than investing in multi-billion dollar interoperable systems from the ground up;
  • Creating a “COPS II” program that provides federal matching funds to cities that create dedicated counterterrorism units within their police departments;
  • and establishing, via legislation, a regulatory framework for chemical plant security.

Among a number of solid chapters, Chapter 4 on “Protecting Infrastructure and Providing Incentives for the Private Sector to Protect Itself” is especially worth reading. It tackles the question of why the private sector has underinvested in security since 9/11, listing the negative externalities that result from this underinvestment, running down the pro’s and con’s of the options available to policymakers to remedy this problem (e.g. regulation, subsidies, insurance), and testing the framework against different types of infrastructure. This is the mostly clearly structured piece that I’ve read on this specific topic, and implicit in the chapter is a framework that should be used to guide decision-making within DHS on critical infrastructure protection.

Overall, an excellent volume – the best book on homeland security policy in the last two years. You can buy it from Brookings or on Amazon.

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