Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

July 7, 2008

Just What is Homeland Security?

Filed under: General Homeland Security,Strategy — by Jonah Czerwinski on July 7, 2008

The current issue of the journal of the Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security (CHDS), Homeland Security Affairs, includes an article by Christopher Bellavita, an instructor at NPS and director of academic programs at CHDS. The article invokes a long-standing challenge for the homeland security community: Just what is – and isn’t – homeland security?

Dr. Bellavita identifies seven core definitions of homeland security:

1. Terrorism. Homeland security is a concerted national effort by federal, state and local governments, by the private sector, and by individuals to prevent terrorist attacks within the United States, reduce America’s vulnerability to terrorism, and minimize the damage and recover from attacks that do occur.

2. All Hazards. Homeland security is a concerted national effort to prevent and disrupt terrorist attacks, protect against man-made and natural hazards, and respond to and recover from incidents that do occur.

3. Terrorism and Catastrophes. Homeland security is what the Department of Homeland Security — supported by other federal agencies — does to prevent, respond to, and recover from terrorist and catastrophic events that affect the security of the United States.

4. Jurisdictional Hazards. Homeland security means something different in each jurisdiction. It is a locally-directed effort to prevent and prepare for incidents most likely to threaten the safety and security of its citizens.

5. Meta Hazards. Homeland security is a national effort to prevent or mitigate any social trend or threat that can disrupt the long-term stability of the American way of life.

6. National Security. Homeland security is an element of national security that works with the other instruments of national power to protect the sovereignty, territory, domestic population, and critical infrastructure of the United States against threats and aggression.

7. Security Über Alles. Homeland security is a symbol used to justify government efforts to curtail civil liberties.

A good deal of Dr. Bellavita’s treatment of these definitions is familiar terrain. That he has cogently organized these into a dispassionate analysis showing both sides of each argument makes this a critical read. Importantly, he takes on the often misunderstood concept of “all hazards,” explaining the difference between addressing those consequences common to multiple threats and the “anything’s possible” approach to securing the homeland.

As this blog is known to do, we should highlight how the definition of homeland security is broader than convention usually permits. Bellavita describes the way in homeland security is interconnected with most of our society’s other great challenges as “meta hazards.” These are generational developments that pose risks on a significant scale, but are slow-moving and often regarded as distinguishable and independent of one another. Bellavita casts a wide net here and does not spend time explaining how each of the following are exactly related to HLS:

1. Growing federal fiscal debt
2. Global warming
3. Inferior math, science, and engineering education
4. Decaying physical infrastructure
5. The privatization of government services
6. Dependence on foreign energy
7. Aging population
8. Inadequate health care
9. Drug-resistant disease
10. Food security
11. Open borders
12. Mass immigration
13. Cyber security
14. Pandemics
15. Foreign ownership of U.S. debt

These long-term concerns can undermine America’s competitiveness, independence, and overall societal coherence. Some are obvious connections to HLS (i.e. cybersecurity, pandemics, food security), but this is because they can be brought on by adversaries. The critical point here is that a number of these risks are self-inflicted – and therefore self-remedied.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

July 7, 2008 @ 8:43 am

Note that energy security is not on the list. Must not related to homeland security? Also note that the primary but long gone rationale for creating DHS was improvements in collection, coordination, and cooperation on domestic intelligence. Gone but not forgotten?

Comment by David Longshore

July 10, 2008 @ 1:52 pm

From my reading of the list and the article, I believe “energy security” is covered by #4 (Decaying physical infrastructure) and #6 (Dependence on foreign energy). It’s also implied that this is one of the “meta hazards” that Dr. Bellavita mentions in his article. The point about the connection between Homeland Security and improvements in Intelligence collection and dissemination is a good one; but I believe there may be two tracks at work in Dr. Bellavita’s analysis, one that addresses the “objectives”, the other that addresses the “capabilities”. Along with an analysis of “hostilities” and/or “hazards”, objectives and capabilities represent the two remaining legs of terrorism prevention and the means of evaluating the efficacy of such prevention measures. Is Intelligence a capability or an objective, or both? I’d say that Intelligence is a capability while Homeland Security is the objective.

Comment by William R. Cumming

July 14, 2008 @ 5:46 pm

Great commment on my comment. Very helpful!

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