Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

July 10, 2007

9/11 Conference Bill – Office of Int’l Cooperation

Filed under: Congress and HLS,International HLS — by Jonah Czerwinski on July 10, 2007

CQ reported that Senate Republicans agreed to assign conferees to consider HR1, the House bill that implements several of the recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission.  (They were holding out until Democratic leadership dropped their provisions granting certain labor rights to the workforce of airport screeners.  The President also threatened to veto the entire bill if it included these rights for airport screeners.) This post is the first in an occasional series to highlight important sections of HR1 as it undergoes conference proceedings.

Section 1301 of Title XIII is provision recommended earlier this year (see this post) to create an institutional mechanism at DHS charged with promoting HLS capabilities and cooperation overseas.  Creating the Science and Technology Homeland Security International Cooperative Programs Office is an important investment, but one that needs to be revisited in terms of its limited scope and organizational placement.

The bill’s provision offers a half-dozen findings, beginning with these two: 

(1)   The development and implementation of technology is critical to combating terrorism and other high consequence events and implementing a comprehensive homeland security strategy.

(2)   The United States and its allies in the global war on terrorism share a common interest in facilitating research, development, testing, and evaluation of equipment, capabilities, technologies, and services that will aid in detecting, preventing, responding to, recovering from, and mitigating against acts of terrorism. 

All six reflect a similar scope.  While technology surely is critical to implementing a comprehensive homeland security strategy, the sort of international cooperation we need is in both capabilities and strategy.  The notion that we share an interest with our allies in developing the technical capabilities to combat terrorism is hard to argue with.  However, the technology is in many ways the easy part.  All six of this section’s findings focus on technology as a means toward enhanced cooperation.  It is unclear if the intention is to strengthen our capabilities by learning from others, or to bolster cooperation in a general sense by sharing technology-based capabilities with other countries.  Both would be worthwhile, but only part of the solution.

This blog has posted on the critical role allies serve in securing the homeland.  The focus of this Office should be broad enough to encompass a range of HLS priorities that include threat perception/assessment, public education/training, operational cooperation, and exchanges similar to the way our Defense Department executes mil-to-mil relationships around the globe.

For this reason, a new Science and Technology Homeland Security International Cooperative Programs Office would be more appropriately placed in the DHS Policy Office.  There, the assistant secretary for international affairs would be placed in charge of this important office, which could be renamed simply the Homeland Security International Cooperative Programs Office with a mission of identifying opportunities to cooperate with allies in a range of areas representing shared interests that protect against the threat of terrorism, natural disasters, etc.  It could even be a joint office with the State Department.

A grant- or loan-making mechanism for DHS could be established under the authority of the Homeland Security International Cooperative Programs Office and may work similar to the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DCSA), which enables countries with a shared interest in security to build more effective defense capabilities through training, capacity building, and materiel sales.  The new Office also would be responsible for liaising with the G8-established Counterterrorism Action Group.  The CTAG is a multinational organization charged with connecting mutual interests and shared strengths among partners and allies while “building political will, [and] coordinating capacity building assistance where necessary….”  Ah, yes, “political will.”  Wouldn’t want that job.

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Comment by MArk

July 12, 2007 @ 8:10 am

Analyze this please and stop wasting our time:

WASHINGTON, July 11 — Undercover Congressional investigators set up a bogus company and obtained a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in March that would have allowed them to buy the radioactive materials needed for a so-called dirty bomb.

The investigators, from the Government Accountability Office, demonstrated once again that the security measures put in place since the 2001 terrorist attacks to prevent radioactive materials from getting into the wrong hands are insufficient, according to a G.A.O. report, which is scheduled to be released at a Senate hearing Thursday. –NY Times

Comment by Jonah Czerwinski

July 12, 2007 @ 10:58 am

MARK — Not sure what your comment or the article you mentioned have to do with HR1 or the proposed Office of International Cooperation Programs at DHS (the subject of this post). If you are referring to an earlier post about an international technology competition in which I mention the GAO investigation into radiological material movement across borders, following is the language from the actual GAO report that identifies the authentication issues I cited and linked to in my corresponding post on July 4. This is the 2005 GAO investigation, not the recent one that Eric Lipton reported on in the July 12 article you clipped from. That story reflects a different investigation entirely.

“Individuals and organizations shipping radiological materials to the United States must generally acquire a NRC license, but according to NRC officials, the license does not have to accompany the shipment.

Although inspectors examine such licenses when these shipments arrive at U.S. ports of entry, CBP officers are not required to verify that shippers of radiological material actually obtained required licenses and to authenticate licenses that accompany shipments. We found that CBP inspectors lack access to NRC license data that could be used to authenticate a license at the border.”

That’s GAO-06-558T.

Comment by William R. Cumming

July 15, 2007 @ 9:43 am

Now! Now! Let’s not get defensive. I would be interested to know how DHS has helped on a multi-lateral effort to reduce or combat terrorism! What have the efforts of DHS been internationally so far and if deficient how exactly will this new inititive by Congress and/or help overcome the current deficiencies. After all change hopefully is designed to improve things, not just change for change sake.

Comment by Jonah Czerwinski

July 15, 2007 @ 6:38 pm

Defensive? Me? Nah. But it did concern me that a reader would suggest that I’m wasting his time. You asked a couple of good questions in your comment, WRC:

I would be interested to know how DHS has helped on a multi-lateral effort to reduce or combat terrorism! What have the efforts of DHS been internationally so far and if deficient how exactly will this new inititive by Congress and/or help overcome the current deficiencies.

I am going to take the easy way out here and link to a speech I gave last year on 9/11 in Prague on this subject. I was asked to speak on transatlantic cooperation in preventing and combating terrorism, and did include examples of how DHS serves a role in that.

I was a guest of our embassy there and so it wasn’t much of an occasion to focus entirely on the gaps and areas that need improvement, of which there are several. The preponderant role served by the Departments of State and Defense crowd DHS out of the game in a way. I believe that this is done at a cost. I co-wrote a report on how DHS could be more forward leaning in this area. You may find it of interest. The CSIS-THF report entitled DHS 2.0 has related language that we as a taskforce were committed to including in order to outline a more relevant role for DHS in international collaborative efforts. Finally, I focused on this issue in a Backgrounder I wrote with James Carafano and Richard Weitz. It shows both how DHS contributes to international efforts and how it could do more through joint technology development and other efforts.

Comment by William R. Cumming

July 16, 2007 @ 6:56 pm

DHS 2.0 had its merits. Partially reflected in Secretary Chertoff’s 2sr reorg within 60 days of Katrina. Love the backgrounder and the speech link did not work for me. But yes you hit that one out of the park long ago. Still important that DHS settles down and decides international cooperation is crucial to its success. After all even the FBI deploys an increasing percentage of its staff overseas. That is a good thing. Too bad they still can’t develop analysts with linguistic skills. By the way how is the language aptitude and skill level of the DHS conglomerate? Hope some are fluent in Hebrew, Farsi, Urdu, Arabic, etc.

Pingback by Homeland Security Watch » Final 9/11 Bill Conference Agreement

July 26, 2007 @ 2:44 pm

[…] final conference agreement on the 9/11 Bill is here.  As noted in earlier posts, the 9/11 Bill represents the effort to implement a number of the recommendations of the 9/11 […]

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