Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

June 29, 2006

New report on “The Forgotten Homeland”

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christian Beckner on June 29, 2006

The Century Foundation is releasing a task force report today on homeland security policy entitled “The Forgotten Homeland.” The recommendations, introduction, and several chapters are available here on their website. The report is divided into three sections, on the roles of state & local governments, the private sector, and the federal government respectively. The top-level recommendations in the report are summarized here.

There are some good ideas in the report, and the task force rightfully spends a chapter looking at the issue of chemical plant security, the most significant homeland security vulnerability in the United States today. And its argument that investments in homeland security need to be weighed against obselete military projects (examples given include the F/A-22 Raptor, the Osprey, and Virginia-class subs) that suck up billions of dollars is spot on.

But there are also a number of ill-advised ideas in the report. The authors argue that the government should “resist structural solutions to functional problems” but then contradict themselves by proposing removing FEMA from DHS and offering several other structural recommendations. As I’ve argued before, removing FEMA from DHS would be precisely the wrong step to take at this time, because it would create the illusion of a solution to what are functional problems at their core.

The chapter on state & local government make a compelling argument that homeland security efforts need to be more focused at the metropolitan level in the coming years, but then proposes a uniform, federally-driven approach for this, rather than devolving authority to states & cities to take their own initiative and trusting the power of decentralized, networked governance. For example, the task force argues that every major metropolitan area needs personal protective equipment for all first responders, a city-wide CCTV system, and a number of other requirements. But that one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t trust cities to make their own decisions, in a way that is commensurate with their original argument that metropolitan areas need to take a leading role in homeland security. Moreover, this approach is likely to be inconsistent with a risk-based strategy; it would probably lead to funding decisions that would harm NYC and DC much more than this year’s UASI allocations, unless billions of new dollars were suddenly available.

Overall, it’s an OK report, but it suffers from the malady that often afflicts these group projects: the penchant for “laundry lists” of recommendations rather than a consistent, unified vision for homeland security.

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1 Comment »

Comment by William R. Cumming

June 29, 2006 @ 2:39 pm

This report covers a lot of ground. Some of it excellent. Like this blog’s author I believe removal of FEMA whether as it existed on March 1, 2003 when it became part of DHS or as it now exists only creates more problems for a small understaffed underfunded agency. It never conducted catastrophic disaster planning because efforts to do so were blocked by both Congress and OMB. All of the current legislation pulling FEMA out or leaving FEMA in DHS is defective for two major reasons. None of the bills actually address problems identified 20 years ago in the Robert T. Stafford Act that keep it from being a truly all-hazards domestic crisis response statutory scheme. Second, none of the proposed bills address the mitigation and preparedness and United States Fire Adminstration programs, functions, and activities. The Fire Service must be brought into the large scale domestic crisis response system and made more efficient and effective. It is a national asset even though grounded in local funding and staffing. Susan Collins has her own bill but even that is deficient. So far hearings on the in or out issue have focused on the past not on the future and improvements in the domestic crisis response and recovery system and a mobilization system to support that. The 12-15 inches over 4 days disrupted DC and the Northeast. Remember it is not uncommon to see 24 inches in a 48 hour period or the record of Camille in 1969 something like 34 over a 40 hour period. Perhaps we should be mapping the “Storm” not the flood.

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