Ever wonder why the perception that every step forward in securing the homeland is two steps back in strengthening commerce? Take a look at the fiscal year 2009 budget. The $37.6 billion requested by DHS is focused on five objectives:
- Protect our Nation from Dangerous People
- Protect our Nation from Dangerous Goods
- Protect Critical Infrastructure
- Build a Nimble, Effective Emergency Response System and a Culture of Preparedness
- Strengthen and Unify DHS Operations and Management
Based on the details in the budget request, success in three of these categories can be measured rather bluntly:
- An increase, possibly followed by a decrease, in arrests or denied entries
- An increase, possibly followed by a decrease, in â€œno-loadâ€ orders for shipments from overseas
- An increase in high tech equipment and more staff for regulatory offices
Building a culture of preparedness and investing in more unified DHS management functions are goals worth pursuing. However, the bulk of the budget request is dedicated to a lop-sided investment in the guns, guards, and gates paradigm that favors a narrow focus on keeping threats at bay, as opposed to reducing overall risk through a more strategic approach that considers the broader mission.
In the seven years since 9/11 and the five years since DHS opened its doors, we have learned that securing the homeland includes a broader concept than what is offered in this Administration’s final DHS budget request. The mission of DHS is not only to reduce the threat of terrorism and bolster the nation’s ability to respond to attacks and disasters. The Department has an implicit mission that includes making the country a better place — with a stronger economy — at the same time. For example:
Protecting our nation from dangerous people is not the only goal in managing the flow of people. The priority ought to be on doing so through solutions that also enhance the commercial viability of enabling the flow of legitimate travelers while better targeting threats in a more surgical manner. Success in this mission would measure not only the number of arrests or denied entries, but also the veracity of information gathered, the integrity of the privacy protections in place, and the overall through-put of people entering and exiting the U.S. to support our trade and travel economy.
Protecting our nation from dangerous goods is not the only goal in managing the flow of cargo and their conveyances around the globe. The priority ought to be on distributing authorities among our trading partners within an effective governance framework – empowered by effective technology – that assures an even application of preventive measures that increasingly facilitate the movement of legitimate goods to better support our nation’s competitiveness. Success in this mission would measure not only the number of alarms tripped by suspicious cargo en route to the U.S., but also the accuracy of the information shared within a flexible system that enables a more exact understanding of where weaknesses reside in the system so as to better shore up vulnerabilities and better localize disruptions and attacks in order to limit the overall impact on trade.
The next Administration cannot reboot the whole HLS system and start over. However, the importance of taking a new strategic reassessment of where the billions of dollars go and how we measure success in these investments will be a vital initial move by the next team.