Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

September 15, 2008

Bipartisan Call to Address HLS Priorities

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Jonah Czerwinski on September 15, 2008

The mission of securing the homeland is far larger than the Department of Homeland Security. More than 87,000 governmental jurisdictions at the federal, state, and local level have homeland security responsibilities. A total of 32 agency budgets comprise Federal homeland security funding in 2009. Of those, five agencies – DHS, DOD, HHS, DOJ, and DOE – account for approximately $60.7 billion (91%) of total Government-wide gross discretionary homeland security funding in 2009.

Tackling HLS challenges facing the U.S. in the next Administration requires an enterprise perspective to orchestrate this massive mission.

James Carafano and David Heyman called it. Two of the more influential thinkers in homeland security policy at The Heritage Foundation and CSIS, respectively, they say in a new article today that “voters have heard little about homeland security” from the presidential candidates.

The seventh anniversary of 9/11 came and went with sincere calls by both camps to honor those we lost, inspire those live on, and capture or kill those who are responsible and remain at large. However, Heyman and Carafano are right to assess that “the risks to America’s hometowns are as high as they’ve ever been, if not higher.” A lot of work remains to be done here at home to keep Americans safe from terrorist threats.

In bipartisan spirit, their article takes both the Obama and McCain camps to task for how they would address urgent policy issues related to securing the homeland. For example:

• Is a post-Katrina FEMA on the right track?

• Should we welcome foreign visitors or place tighter controls at the border to protect America from terrorist threats?

• Should we build border fences or invest in tougher immigration enforcement?

• Should government regulate private-sector security to ensure critical infrastructure is protected, or encourage voluntary public-private partnerships?

• How should we fund continued investments and operational costs of our local first responders?

• Should the Patriot Act be reauthorized as is?

• Should we scan all cargo coming into America for radiological or nuclear bombs?

An enterprise, indeed. This is about more than one department. This also is about more than just the federal government, and more than about simply the “homeland.” What will the candidates propose to build such an enterprise? We have analyzed the positions of both candidates based on campaign positions here. But Carafano and Heyman offer five recommendations for McCain and Obama to consider:

• Foster a culture of preparedness by focusing on making communities and individuals more self-reliant and less dependent on Washington.
• Shift from a strategy that tries to “child-proof” critical infrastructure to one that builds and sustains an infrastructure that can take a hit and keep going.
• Expand international cooperation, since real homeland security begins far from home.
• Develop a clear framework for domestic intelligence, one that safeguards liberty and defeats terrorists equally well.
• Improve professional development in security and public safety at all levels of government — ensuring that leaders really can lead.

These are thumbnail recommendations that deserve deeper treatment by both candidates. It is clear from Obama’s campaign material that he has thought about these issues and he offers his own plan. McCain on the other hand only just updated his website to now have a page on HLS. Let’s hope we get both campaign’s talking more about this issue so important to American voters.

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1 Comment »

Comment by William R. Cumming

September 15, 2008 @ 9:42 am

Doctors (PhDs) Carafano and Heyman are smart people and anything they write or say should be considered fully. AS to FEMA, IKE is enough of a real test in both TEXAS and LOUISIANA (oddly) to find out what improvements have been made since Katrina. AS to other items listed all important and not that easily dealt with. Personally I think DHS needs a fundamental rethinking with some of the non-HS programs, functions, and activities being considered for transfer elsewhere–(e.g. FEMA’s flood mapping program to the STATES for inland/rverine flood mapping and to NOAA/USGS for Coastal Mapping). Also it is very apparent that the Drug Enforcement Administration should have been part of DHS orgininally and DOJ will just have to rekon with a new gorilla in the law enforcement community. The original rationale for DHS was domestic intelligence and odd how that has worked out (Or not?). The law enforcement (Gun & badge & and 20 years and out retirement system) predominates in DHS (over 80,000 of the FTE positions). So perhaps an item for a new administration is a thorough review of Title 18 (the US criminal code) and how it needs to be revised or modified. Also some activities might require decriminalization. The federal law enforcement community if you exclude certan groups like the US Marshall service is not all that big. Even the FBI with only 12,000 of its 35,000 staff being Gold Badge agents has tooth to tail problems. The labs and IT operations in FBI are still not what they should be. Glad you picked up the report-Jonah! Time will tell!

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