From “The State of Homeland Security Address with Secretary Janet Napolitano,” on February 26, 2013, at Brookings. [My emphasis, below]
[MS. KAMARCK]: Okay. And finally, at a recent hearing on your Department, researchers at the Congressional Research Services pointed out that 30 other agencies in addition to DHS have homeland security in their missions. And they were critical that there was no consistent federal definition of homeland security. Does this matter?
SECRETARY NAPOLITANO: Well, it would probably be, you know, nice, but it doesn’t really matter in practice. That’s the first I’ve ever even heard that, and I’ve been Secretary four plus years. So it’s certainly not affecting my day-to-day work. (Laughter)
SECRETARY NAPOLITANO: But here’s the thing. Under Homeland Security Presidential Directive 5, HSPD 5, I mean, there’s really a clear outlining of when you have a big complicated event, what is the role of DHS. And BP is a good example of this, which is to coordinate and lead multiple agencies who are responding, and there it was the EPA, and Energy, and Interior just to name a few.
And we actually for months after the spill at a Cabinet-level, secretaries and the administrators would get twice-daily or once daily on the phone, weekends, it didn’t matter, going through what everyone was doing, what the response was, what some of the big issues were. And that really helped coordinate the response.
And I think, you know, in the aftermath looking back, again you always learn lessons. There’s always things you would do better or differently. But in the context of the largest oil spill of its type, I think really worked well to help mitigate the damage. And we did that after Sandy as well.
So in practice, what we mean by homeland security is what I said. It’s agility. It is the ability to prevent as well as protect. It’s the ability to continue to innovate. That’s what we consider to be homeland security.
And lastly, it is a sense that it is not the responsibility of one government department. It’s not the responsibility solely of the federal government. You have the states that have a critical responsibility. Governor O’Malley is here. Cities have a responsibility. And every single person has a responsibility in the security realm for the safety of themselves, but also of each other.
So trying to in DHS 3.0 inculcate that and just make it — this is one of the things we do, like putting on a seat belt, will be important for us.
If you have the time, it’s worth watching the Secretary answer this question (at the 50:40 mark on the video, available on the Brookings site). You can see how she constructs her definition of homeland security as she speaks.
I also liked the look on her face at the 51 minute mark when she thinks about the question and says “That’s the first I’ve ever even heard [about the lack of a consistent federal definition of homeland security], and I’ve been Secretary four plus years. So it’s certainly not affecting my day-to-day work.”