When Congress passed the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, it required the Department of Homeland Security to prepare a Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (QHSR) to assess the status of our nation’s homeland security efforts and to “delineate and update, as appropriate, the national security strategy,” and to “outline and prioritize the full range of the critical homeland security mission areas of the Nation.”
The idea of requiring a QHSR had been discussed by the House Homeland Security Committee as early as 2005. Members and staff had tried to figure out a way to organize the Department’s strategic thinking and to prevent what we saw at the time as a constant reshuffling and rebirth of programs and policies, as well as the development of strategy after strategy depending on the revolving group of people circulating through the agency. The idea was to add formality to the agency’s strategic thinking and encourage it to follow the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) developed by the Defense Department.
This past week, DHS released its first QHSR, after having held many meetings and a unique online dialogue to elicit comments from various stakeholders, interested parties, and citizens. So what does the report tell us about our homeland security efforts and the path forward?
First, it lays out the threats and hazards, as well as the global challenges and trends. Fortunately, it does so graphically as well as through text. Here is the handy visual provided by DHS:
The report goes on to explain that there are three concepts that form the foundation for a comprehensive approach to homeland security:
Security: Protect the U.S. and its people, vital interests, and way of life;
Resilience: Foster individual, community, and system robustness, adaptability, and capacity for rapid recovery; and
Customs & Exchange: Expedite and enforce lawful trade, travel, and immigration.
After laying out the foundation of homeland security, the report goes on to discuss the five homeland security missions. Again, a handy graphic is provided:
The report delineates under each goal specific objectives that the agency is striving for in the next four years. The objectives are broad and often evoke what many would consider common sense. For example, in the section relating to cybersecurity (which falls under Mission 4 above), the following objective is identified:
Understand and prioritize cyber threats: Identify and evaluate the most
dangerous threats to Federal civilian and private-sector networks and the
Nation. The speed of innovation in the cyber realm requires that sharing of
information and analysis occur before malicious actors can exploit
vulnerabilities. We must continuously sharpen our understanding of risks to our
critical information infrastructure. Risk management decisions must incorporate
cyber risks based on technological as well as nontechnological factors, and must
address the differing levels of security required by different activities.
Information and intelligence regarding emerging cyber threats and
vulnerabilities must be collected, analyzed, and shared appropriately and
promptly. Homeland security partners must provide and receive information
and assessments on risks to and incidents involving information systems,
networks, and data in time to carry out their risk management responsibilities.
Finally, homeland security partners must use compatible information
architecture and data standards to maximize the appropriate acquisition, access,
retention, production, use, management, and safeguarding of risk information.
A common theme and finding throughout the QHSR? Homeland security is a BIG issue and requires lots of information sharing, collaboration, cooperation, and getting along. That said, the QHSR may help us identify what we are dealing with across the broad spectrum of homeland security but will it take us to the next step? Is this a strategy that means something or will it become another strategy on the dust-covered shelves of homeland security strategies since 2001?
Hopefully, it will be the first and will help the Department move past its infancy stage, become a more efficient operation that is successful as “ONE DHS.” And maybe, just maybe, that much needed collaboration with international, federal, state, local, and tribal partners will follow.