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. Â (They were holding out until Democratic leadership dropped their provisions granting certain labor rights to the workforce of airport screeners.Â 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.Â Â 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:Â
(1)Â Â The development and implementation of technology is critical to combating terrorism and other high consequence events and implementing a comprehensive homeland security strategy.
(2)Â Â 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.Â
All six reflect a similar scope.Â 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.Â The notion that we share an interest with our allies in developing the technical capabilities to combat terrorism is hard to argue with.Â However, the technology is in many ways the easy part.Â All six of this sectionâ€™s findings focus on technology as a means toward enhanced cooperation.Â 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.Â Both would be worthwhile, but only part of the solution.
This blog has posted on the critical role allies serve in securing the homeland.Â 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 placedÂ in the DHS Policy Office.Â 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.Â 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 toÂ 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.Â The new Office also would be responsible for liaising with the G8-established Counterterrorism Action Group.Â The CTAG is a multinational organization charged with connecting mutual interests and shared strengths among partners and allies while â€œbuilding political will, [and] coordinating capacity building assistance where necessaryâ€¦.â€Â Ah, yes, “political will.”Â Wouldn’t want that job.